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Smith Advises FCC on AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, stopped short of endorsing the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, but he wrote the chairman of the FCC and attorney general to talk about some of the benefits of the deal, and advise them not to rule based on one side of the story.

"Recently, you have heard from members of Congress who, based on the limited information provided in congressional hearings, urged you to conclude that this merger should be blocked. Unfortunately, they provided you with only side of the story. I feel compelled to briefly point out the other side," he wrote. While he did not name names, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, prominently sent a letter to the same two officials following a Senate Judiciary hearing on the deal asking that the merger be denied.

Smith said that the committee in its May 26 hearing on the deal was told of a number of potential benefits, including improving service quality and capacity, overcoming spectrum shortages, and expanding next-generation wireless service to rural America.

But he also said that while the FCC should consider input from Congress, it should base its decision on its own fact-finding. "Because of limitation on time, resources, and the number of witnesses, a congressional hearing does not provide an adequate forum for the extensive and detailed analysis that a merger of this magnitude warrants," he wrote.

AT&T has proposed buying T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom for $39 billion, promoting it as a way to spur next-generation wireless broadband, one of the Obama Administration's goals.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.