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Groups Call for FCC Field Hearings On AT&T/T-Mobile

Critics of AT&T's proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile have called on the FCC to hold public field hearings on the deal within the next two months, though an FCC source on background suggested it would be a long shot..

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union, Free Press, Future of Music Coalition, Media Access Project, National Hispanic Media Coalition and the New America Foundation said that the proposed deal is a mater "of great public concern."

It is certainly of great concern to the groups, who argue that it will result in a more concentrated market with fewer jobs, something AT&T and T Mobile dispute, including last week in a presentation to top FCC staffers about the deal's upsides for consumers and the administration's wireless broadband deployment initiative.

The groups want a series of hearings around the country about the impact of combining two wireless carriers that they argue would control almost 80% of the market.

They point out that the FCC held a field hearing in Chicago on its last big merger--Comcast/NBCU--as well as holding more than 85 public forums, including Tuesday's (June 28) forum on location-based service.

AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris responded by suggesting the FCC was already getting plenty of input without the road trip. 

"The FCC has received extensive public comment on this transaction as well as more than a million pages of documents," he said in a statement. " And while the formal pleading cycle is closed, interested members of the public continue to make their views known in filings at the FCC. The enormous public record amassed demonstrates unequivocally that wireless competition will remain fierce and that the merger will result in tremendous public interest benefits..."

The FCC had no official comment on the request, but a source speaking on background pointed out that the Comcast/NBCU field hearing was unusual and, while not ruling out the hearing, indicated there were no plans for one at the present time.