Rep. Inslee continues to seek answers about proposed merger asking FCC to hold hearing in Seattle
On July 14th, Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) sent a letter to the President and CEO of both AT&T and T-Mobile asking for answers regarding the proposed merger of their two companies and how it might impact local jobs, customer service, competition and choice, investment and spectrum allocation. Both companies have responded to those questions. While continuing to press for answers Rep. Inslee is now also requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who is currently reviewing the proposed merger, hold a public hearing on the matter in Seattle as Washington state would be primarily impacted with the headquarters of T-Mobile located in the Puget Sound region.
"The answers I received did little to convince me that the merger of these two companies will benefit local jobs or provide customers with better service at affordable prices," said Rep. Inslee. "American consumers face diminishing choice and higher bills at a time of increasing profitability for the dominant wireless companies in today's marketplace. As a critical public resource, the airwaves should be used to advance the public interest and not concentrated in the hands of a few and thereby limiting choices for consumers. The federal agencies involved should view any further consolidation in the wireless industry with considerable skepticism."
AT&T in particular failed to adequately address the issue of jobs in their response.
AT&T has previously claimed, in an investor briefing, that $10 billion in savings would be achieved through reduced support and general and administrative expenses as a result of the merger. AT&T did not address this discrepancy or offer a detailed explanation on the possible job losses, particularly in headquarters organization. In essence AT&T is publicly claiming that it will be able to create jobs while touting to investors the opportunity that exists to cut employment costs.
Despite massive growth in the wireless industry since 2004 and an existing Washington state presence, AT&T has approximately 1,200 fewer employees in the state than Redmond, WA based AT&T Wireless maintained prior to their merger with Cingular (present day AT&T).
AT&T also provided no response estimating the number of retail store closures post-merger, despite a justification for the merger being "retail store rationalization".
Today, Rep. Inslee sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, asking the FCC to hold a field hearing on the merger in Seattle. The states in part,
Given the wide-reaching effects of this merger, it is understandable that the public has taken a deep interest in this review. Ten of thousands of Americans have passed comments along to the Commission. In Washington, more than two thousand citizens have contacted the FCC about this merger. I have similarly heard from many of my constituents.
In light of this interest and the prominent role the wireless industry continues to play in the local economy, I would like to request that you hold a field hearing in Seattle to further explore the effects this merger would have in the state. I think we can both agree that public participation is critically important to determining whether a merger is in the public interest.