AT&T is getting some support from a key congressional leader for its proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA.
Earlier this week, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, urged regulators to resist what he called one-sided arguments to block AT&T's plan to buy T-Mobile.
"Recently, you have heard from members of Congress who, based on the limited information provided in congressional hearings, urged you to conclude that this merger should be blocked," he said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, which are reviewing the merger. "Unfortunately, they provided you with only one side of the story. I feel compelled to briefly point out the other side."
He asked regulators to consider the benefits of the merger, which he said includes an improvement in the quality and capacity of broadband networks for consumers and more efficient use of wireless spectrum. He also said that the acquisition would create jobs, spur innovation, and encourage competitors to also improve their networks.
Others have also come out in support of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. The latest tally in favor of the merger is 26 governors, 92 mayors, 11 state attorneys general, and 79 Democratic members of the House of Representatives. AT&T also points out that some leading high-tech companies, such as Microsoft and Facebook, have also said they support the merger.
Meanwhile, there is opposition. Last week, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who heads up the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, asked regulators in a letter to block the proposed merger, stating that the merger would be "highly dangerous to competition and consumers."
Other Democratic lawmakers also submitted a letter to federal regulators last week, urging them to investigate AT&T's claims that the deal would benefit consumers. While the letter from Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) to the Justice Department and FCC did not ask regulators to block the deal, they did say in their letter that further scrutiny is needed.
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Ultimately, it is the Department of Justice and FCC which will determine whether the merger should be completed. But opponents and supporters of the merger have been lining up publicly to put in their two cents. The House and Senate judiciary committees have each held hearings on the mergers to allow opponents the opportunity to voice their concerns. And AT&T and T-Mobile executives were given time to defend the merger.
The proposed merger was announced in March and regulators say they are on track to make a decision within about a year. AT&T has said that it is confident the merger will be approved and it expects to close the deal in the first half of 2012.