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Activist Groups: Ding-Dong, the AT&T–T-Mobile Deal Is Dead

"AT&T officially surrenders," said the headline of one e-mail. "AT&T Finally Abandons Doomed Merger," said another. "We are thankful that the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger is now officially dead," said another.

That was the reaction Monday to news that AT&T had called off its planned $39 billion merger with T-Mobile.

The merger was considered on life support ever since AT&T withdrew its application at the FCC, agreed with Justice to delay an court action, and signaled to investors it was preparing to take a multi-billion dollar write-off--it had a $4 billion break-up fee.

"This deal has been as good as dead for months because the facts never matched AT&T's fabrications about the benefits of the merger," said Free Press President Craig Aaron. "As the public, the Justice Department and the FCC long ago recognized -- and now even AT&T must admit -- this deal would have only meant higher prices, fewer choices and tens of thousands of lost American jobs. Good riddance. The Obama administration deserves praise and credit for standing up to AT&T's relentless lobbying and propaganda."

Actually, AT&T said that the deal would have provided the kind of wireless broadband buildout the President had called for, and that the failure of that meld would hurt consumers and investment.

The National Hispanic Media Coalition celebrated the news. "The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would have left two wireless carriers with nearly 80% of the mobile phone market, leading to less competition, higher prices, and fewer choices for mobile phone customers. It would have also led to job losses."

The deal had some union support, including the Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters.

"In this age of cynicism, it is important for the American people to see that Washington does not always go to the highest bidder," said Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld. "The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission stood up to tremendous lobbying pressure as AT&T spent tens of millions of dollars trying to push this merger through."

"We hope that AT&T and T-Mobile will focus on deploying the best, most competitive networks possible rather than trying to merge to duopoly. These businesses are fundamentally sound, and have what it takes to bring broadband and jobs to America on their own. We look forward to seeing them re-imagine what's possible, rather than trying to rule the air."

While activist groups were turning over shovelfuls of earth on the deal, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) was turning phrases, as he is wont to do, to celebrate a deal he has strongly opposed as a reunification of the Bell monopoly that he suggested would ring hollow with consumers.

"This holiday season consumers can sing joy to the world that it's a silent night for the AT&T–T-Mobile merger," he wrote in a statement. "I have consistently said that this merger would have been an historic mistake, leading to the greatest concentration of wireless services in history and undermining choice and competition. The Department of Justice and FCC Chairman Genachowski were right to have concerns about the so-called benefits to the public interest of the proposed merger."