Sprint to lobby Congress against AT&T/T-Mobile deal

ORLANDO, Fla.--AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA for $39 billion has sparked sharp protest from Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) here and set in motion a round of jockeying and lobbying in Washington that is likely to consume the wireless industry for months.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told Bloomberg here at the CTIA Wireless 2011 trade show that the carrier will file its complaints about the deal to Congress. "I do have concerns that it would stifle innovation and too much power would be in the hands of just two," Hesse said at a keynote session Tuesday. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the proposed acquisition and investigate whether it will harm competition.

"We understand Sprint has concerns, and we'll be happy to address any they present, whether at the Justice Department, the FCC or the Congress," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of legislative and external affairs, said in a statement to Bloomberg. "We feel we have good and compelling answers. And we feel policymakers will readily understand that any company with whom AT&T competes may not be especially positive about anything which makes AT&T a better competitor in the wireless market."

AT&T has spent $15 million annually on lobbying since 2005, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, and counts numerous former lawmakers among its team of lobbyists, including former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.), and Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.). 

AT&T General Counsel Wayne Watts said in a conference call Monday that the company did not formally approach regulators about the deal before going public, and said the company respects the regulatory approval process. The deal, which AT&T said could close within a year, will need to be approved by both the FCC and the Department of Justice.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski did not comment on the deal when he spoke here Tuesday, and the FCC has not yet formally begun to evaluate the deal. However, FCC officials promised to closely review the transaction.

"There's no way the chairman's office rubber-stamps this transaction," an unnamed FCC official told the Wall Street Journal. "It will be a steep climb to say the least."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article

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