Hearings sought on AT&T deal

Bloomberg News / June 29, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Opponents of AT&T Inc.’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc. asked the Federal Communications Commission to hold public hearings outside Washington on the $39 billion deal.

“Field hearings around the country’’ would let the FCC “hear from the people who could be most affected by the merger,’’ the groups including Consumers Union and Public Knowledge said in a letter yesterday to chairman Julius Genachowski that was distributed by e-mail. The deal is “a matter of great public concern,’’ the groups said.

The FCC and Justice Department are vetting the deal proposed March 20 in a review AT&T executives have said will take about a year. The merger would combine the second- and fourth-largest carriers to create a new market leader, ahead of number one Verizon Wireless.

The agency “has received extensive public comment on this transaction as well as more than a million pages of documents,’’ AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said in an e-mail. Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.

The deal would result in fewer dropped calls and faster, more reliable Internet connections, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson told US senators on May 11.

The merger would let two wireless companies control almost 80 percent of the market and “prices would rise, jobs would be lost, and innovation would suffer,’’ the groups said. Other signers of the letter included Free Press, Media Access Project, Future of Music Coalition, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation.

The FCC held a forum in Chicago last year to examine Comcast’s purchase of GE’s NBC Universal unit.