FCC's Copps pushes back against AT&T/T-Mobile deal

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said AT&T's (NYSE:T) bid to purchase T-Mobile USA for $39 billion could face "a steeper climb" at the commission than Comcast's acquisition of NBC/Universal--comments that indicate the deal will be closely scrutinized.

FCC Michael CoppsIn an interview on C-Span's "The Communicators" series, Copps said the deal, announced March 20, is "a paradigm-altering transaction, as far as the world of wireless goes." Copps, who voted against approving the Comcast transaction, is one of three Democrats on the five-member panel, and has long been a staunch advocate for consumer rights and competition. Both the FCC and the Department of Justice must review the deal.

"This is maybe an even steeper climb from the standpoint of a lot of power and a lot of influence given to one company in a world where two companies are going to control, like, 80 percent of the spectrum," Copps said. "I would hope that my colleagues, in looking at this transaction in the months ahead, will be asking themselves some pretty serious questions about what residue of competition will be left if this merger is approved."

Copps also said he is concerned that the deal will "suck the oxygen out of the room" on other important issues, including incentive spectrum auctions and the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public-safety broadband network. 

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said earlier this week he expects the company will have to make divestitures in order to get the deal approved, though he declined to say what assets AT&T might have to divest. He also said it is too early to discuss what other conditions might be placed on the deal.

In the interview, Copps noted that if a majority of the commission wants to approve the deal, the FCC should look at market-by-market divestitures as well as net neutrality provisions and market concentration. "So it comes down to all the considerations of whether this serves the public interest, convenience and necessity," he said. "That's our charge. I hope that we will fulfill it."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this The Hill article
- see this Politico article

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