AT&T Whines That The T-Mobile Merger Consolidated Too Much U.S. Spectrum In One Place
from the glass-houses dept
AT&T and Verizon didn’t have much to say as T-Mobile was lobbying for Sprint merger approval. In large part because most of the downsides of the merger — such as lower overall pay for sector employees — or higher overall prices due to a consolidated lack of competition — aided the two wireless giants.
Now that the deal’s done, AT&T (no stranger to mindless consolidation and monopolization itself) is apparently concerned that the deal consolidated too much spectrum in the hands of one company. Namely, T-Mobile. From a FCC filing this week spotted by Ars Technica:
“The combination of Sprint and T-Mobile has resulted in an unprecedented concentration of spectrum in the hands of one carrier. In fact, the combined company exceeds the Commission’s spectrum screen, often by a wide margin, in Cellular Market Areas representing 82 percent of the US population, including all major markets.”
This is apparently part of a new trend at AT&T where it engages in bad faith critiques of U.S. policy despite decades engaging in the same or worse behavior (see AT&T’s terrible take on Section 230, or its bad faith claim that it wants a real privacy law). In this case AT&T, a company that has benefited for decades from feeble U.S. restrictions on “spectrum squatting” (hoarding valuable wireless spectrum either for sale or simply so smaller competitors can’t use it to hurt you), is now just super concerned about the practice when somebody else does it. From a companion blog post by the company:
“Given this unprecedented level of spectrum concentration in the hands of a single carrier, we have entered a new era for the FCC?s spectrum acquisition analytical tools. The Commission must now take action to reaffirm the importance of a spectrum aggregation tool and define a meaningful approach going forward.”
Now that another company has abused feckless U.S. oversight to its own advantage, AT&T wants the FCC to do something. Whereas when AT&T, which dominated the wireless sector for the better part of the last two decades engaged in the same sort of hoarding, there was nothing to worry about.
The FCC does have a spectrum screen it uses to determine when accumulation of spectrum raises consolidation flags, but, like so much with U.S. telecom regulators, often isn’t accompanied by substantive action. Especially if those triggering the flag happen to be politically-powerful telecom giants all but fused to the nation’s intelligence-gathering apparatus. Given reports suggest the Trump FCC didn’t even look at the data (or existing complaints about T-Mobile spectrum hoarding) before rubber stamping the T-Mobile merger, it shouldn’t be surprising that policy inconsistencies got lost in the weeds.
Perhaps AT&T officials could come testify before Congress about the perils of mindless consolidation and regulatory capture?