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FCC Placates Us Before It Approves AT&T, T-Mobile Merger

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January 2001: The FCC approves the AOL-Time Warner merger, allowing the biggest merger -- media or otherwise -- in US history.

July 2008: The FCC approves the Sirius-XM merger, uniting the only two satellite radio providers.

March 2011: The FCC acts as if AT&T's T-Mobile acquisition won't be a cakewalk.

An FCC official told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile could be "an uphill climb" -- as if the agency is a stranger to serving corporate interests. "There's no way the chairman's office rubber-stamps this transaction. It will be a steep climb to say the least."


The Journal reminds us of the rhetoric that then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in 2007 prior to the Sirius-XM merger. Of the approval, Martin said that "the hurdle…will be high." And we knew how that went.

Even the AOL-Time Warner merger -- the unmitigated flop it actually was, notwithstanding -- had companies of all sizes quaking in their quarterly reports. Publishing houses, dot-coms, ISPs, everyone was extremely worried of the power and clout that AOL Time Warner had the ability to wield. Unless the FCC has a department of clairvoyants, it surely knew the megacorp's potential for abusing its might.

Luckily for us, it didn't know how.

And now, Americans are facing the likelihood of only three major national carriers for its mobile communication. Worst case scenario, we risk price gouging, severe data caps and throttling, and suppressed technology should this merger go through. Regardless, it won't be enough to force the FCC to consider the consequences before stamping "APPROVED" across the form.

Every month, word comes down that the FCC has launched an antitrust probe for the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and AT&T. And rarely do we hear of severe action taking place, forcing the giant companies to change up their practices. At most, it's a minor inconvenience to the multinational corporations.

Until, of course, someone says a four-letter word on a major broadcast network. Then the FCC springs into action.

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris commented on the matter. "We understand that Congress, the DOJ, the FCC, as well as wireless consumers will have questions about the transaction. We look forward to answering and addressing those questions," Balmoris said. "We are confident that the facts will demonstrate that the deal is in the public interest and that competition will continue to flourish."

Given the FCC's track record, I don't think you'll have anything to worry about, Mike.
(See also: AT&T, T-Mobile Merger Could Be Disastrous for Subscribers and Things Aren't Looking Good for Research in Motion)

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