Thought the skirmish between the Federal Communications Commission and AT&T was over? Guess again.
The FCC announced on Tuesday it would accept AT&T’s request to withdraw its application to acquire T-Mobile, but it also released a staff report detailing what it sees as the problems with the move.
This did not sit well with AT&T, which on Thursday accused the FCC of being “one-sided” and of cherry-picking facts.
A post to AT&T’s public policy blog attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external & legislative affairs, opens as follows:
“We expected that the AT&T-T-Mobile transaction would receive careful, considered, and fair analysis. Unfortunately, the preliminary FCC Staff Analysis offers none of that.”
The two groups have been battling publicly over the proposed acquisition, which AT&T is still pursuing with Deustche Telekom, the owner of T-Mobile. AT&T insists the deal is in the public interest; FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski disagrees.
Both the FCC and Department of Justice have indicated that they see the potential acquisition, which would merge the nation's second and fourth largest wireless service providers, as being anti-competitive.
While they have every right to say that, AT&T seems to think the report demonstrates more than just disapproval.
“In our view, the report raises questions as to whether its authors were predisposed. The report cherry-picks facts to support its views, and ignores facts that don’t. Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact,” Cicconi writes.
The FCC's response? Get outta here.
The agency's spokesperson issued the following statement: “The AT&T/T-Mobile merger would result in the single greatest increase in wireless industry consolidation ever proposed. The FCC’s expert staff dispassionately analyzed all of the facts, including the arguments AT&T rehashes today. The professional staff's analysis was based on a 200,000-page record that included extensive participation from more than fifty corporations and consumer groups that filed petitions to deny the merger application. The objective analysis concluded, like that of the Department of Justice and multiple state attorneys general, that the transaction would decrease competition, innovation and investment, and harm consumers. In addition, AT&T’s own filings, many of which they have kept confidential, show that the deal would lead to massive job losses.”
AT&T was bound to be upset by the release of the report, as many assumed one reason it withdrew the application was because it wanted to keep some of the research on the impact of the deal under wraps.
AT&T continues to pursue the deal, which many see as all but dead. Having abandoned its bid with the FCC, it is focusing on its upcoming antitrust case with the DOJ and finding ways of salvaging the deal.
Some of the speculation includes divesting more assets and a joint venture.
Unfortunately for AT&T — especially given the public nature of the dispute — it needs both the FCC and DOJ to approve the fading deal before it can go forward.