Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky has asked the FCC to hold off on its decision on the proposed AT&T–T-Mobile merger until the Justice Department's antitrust suit is settled, preferably a negotiated settlement with telecom companies.
The deal would combine two of the four largest national wireless carriers, but would also advance wireless broadband rollout in the short term more quickly that reclaiming broadcast spectrum, AT&T has argued.
In a letter to the FCC dated Monday (Sept. 12), Yarmuth, who is a member of the house Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said that he was not weighing in on the merger per se, but that he believed it was in the interests of the economy to let the companies and Justice reach a possible settlement that balances concerns about competition with the potential job creation and capital investment upsides of the deal.
Justice sued to block the proposed $39 billion merger, saying it would decrease competition and raise prices. But it also said it was open to talking with the companies about resolving those issues. That would likely be through some form of divestiture, though Justice was not looking at regional competition but at the size of the resulting company versus national carriers Verizon and Sprint.
AT&T is seeking expedited hearing of the case, and AT&T plans to take Justice up on its offer of talks according to a company source. Meanwhile, a conference with the D.C. District Court is planned for next week to talk about procedural matters relating to the scheduling of the suit.
Yarmuth pointed to that expedited track for why he said the commission could, and should, delay its decision until after the judicial process has been concluded.
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