July 20, 2011, 7:04 PM — The chairman of the U.S. Senate's antitrust subcommittee is urging federal regulators to reject AT&T's proposed $39 billion acquisition of rival T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom.
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisc., sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department arguing that if the merger is allowed it would "likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers, would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies," according to Reuters.
(Also see: The 'most brazen merger proposal in history'?)
While not as explicitly opposed as Kohl, three members of the U.S. House -- Ed Markey of Massachusetts, John Conyers of Michigan and Ann Eshoo of California, all Democrats -- also said Wednesday that they harbor reservations about the deal leading to a concentration of power among two carriers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
Should AT&T be allowed to acquire T-Mobile, the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier, it would split about 80 percent of the U.S. market with No. 1 Verizon Wireless, leaving No. 3 Sprint Nextel with about 17 percent. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has been a vocal opponent of the merger.
While Congress can weigh in on corporate mergers by holding hearings and lobbying in public, approval rests with the Justice Department and FCC.
AT&T announced the proposed purchase back in mid-March, arguing that it would be great for consumers, competition, network quality and technological innovation.
Ridiculous and self-serving as that sounds, the company's pitch has drawn support from other corporations, some unions, lobbying groups and members of Congress.