Sprint formally asks FCC to reject AT&T merger with T-Mobile USA

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No. 3 wireless carrier cites dangers of duopoly in 377-page filing

From the moment AT&T's intention to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion was made known, wireless rival Sprint Nextel has voiced its strong opposition to the merger, which Sprint has argued would create a duopoly with more than 80 percent share of the U.S. wireless market.

Sprint would like the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department -- each of which must approve the deal -- to join it in opposing the merger.

On Tuesday, Sprint took its first step toward helping the FCC make up its mind by submitting a helpful 377-page document detailing why the commission should block the deal.

Sprint doesn't mince words, arguing in the initial summary:

The Commission faces a stark choice in this proceeding. It can reject AT&T’s bid to take over T-Mobile and extend the last two decades of robust competition in the wireless industry – competition that has promoted economic growth and advanced U.S. global leadership in mobile communications. Or the Commission can approve the takeover and let the wireless industry regress inexorably toward a 1980s-style duopoly.

When Sprint's video and radio commercials making this argument come out, they should include dark, foreboding music over that last sentence.

The rest of the huge document mostly reiterates Sprint's main points that the merger will 1) hurt consumers by leading to less choice and higher rates, and 2) "bring this era of unprecedented wireless expansion and technological innovation to an abrupt, but

avoidable, halt."

AT&T and Verizon are nearly tied in U.S. wireless market share with about 33 percent each. Sprint is No. 3 with about 17 percent, while T-Mobile has 11 percent.

AT&T thinks the merger will lead to a golden age of lower prices, greater innovation, increased employment and magic rainbow unicorns for all U.S. consumers.

In a statement given Tuesday, AT&T spokeswoman Christine Linder said, "Strong support for the AT&T-T-Mobile merger has been voiced by dozens of community, civic and minority organizations, 11 governors, multiple labor unions and several members of Congress."

Given that there are 50 governors and 535 members of Congress, this doesn't exactly hint at a groundswell.

"We anticipate additional support for the transaction from more voices who recognize the tremendous benefits for the economy, innovation and public policy associated with bringing high-speed wireless broadband deployment to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population," Linder's statement concluded.

Translation: AT&T's full-court lobbying press is on. Brace yourself, Washington.

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