Back off opposition to AT&T merger, Democratic lawmakers tell Obama
A group of congressional Democrats is urging President Obama to reverse course on his administration's opposition to AT&T's $39-billion merger with T-Mobile, despite the Justice Department's lawsuit filed late last month to block the acquisition.
“The road to economic recovery is long, but there is an opportunity before us to immediately create jobs and spur infrastructure investments and technological innovations that will create jobs for years to come,” Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) wrote in a statement sent along with a letter from fellow lawmakers. “By settling the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA we can put thousands of Americans back to work and promote economic development across the country."
The letter, signed by 15 Democratic members of congress, repeated many of AT&T's oft-used arguments about the benefits of a combined AT&T-T-mobile powerhouse, including that it would create as many as 96,000 jobs and extend high-speed wireless Internet coverage to 98% of Americans.
But those claims have been roundly questioned in the past, and critics of the merger quickly rose to dispute the claims once again.
"We thought the issues of job creation and investment had long been settled," wrote Gigi B. Sohn, the president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. Sohn added:
"It is perfectly clear that AT&T's history has been to destroy jobs, not to create them. The company has shed 10,000 jobs a year for the past 10 years. There is no reason to believe that the takeover of T-Mobile will do anything to change that dynamic. To the contrary, T-Mobile has created jobs at the same time AT&T has cut them. And by removing T-Mobile's investment, the amount of money spent on improving the wireless networks will less, not more."
Sprint-Nextel Corp., another vocal opponent of the merger, agreed that "AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile will eliminate tens of thousand of jobs across the country."
In announcing its lawsuit to block the merger on Aug. 31, the Justice Department said stopping the merger would "help protect jobs in the economy" and was "not a move that's going to in any way reduce them."
-- David Sarno
Photo: Then-congressional candidate and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler speaks during a town hall meeting in 2006. Credit: Alan Marler / Associated Press