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West Virginia Approves AT&T/T-Mobile

The West Virginia Public Service Commission has become the third state commission to approve the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, approving it without a hearing. It follows Arizona and Louisiana in approving the deal, according to a copy of the decision.

The commission found the conditions "reasonable," and said that the transaction "does not adversely affect the public and no party is given an undue advantage."

The commission pointed out that the reason it does not adversely impact the state is that it does not impact the state much, period. "In this proceeding, the West Virginia portion of the proposed merger is relatively small touching on a limited number of T-Mobile customers residing near Pittsburgh or the District of Columbia," said the commission. "As Staff noted T-Mobile has only 0.26 percent of the West Virginia wireless market. Thus, the Commission believes that the transaction will not adversely impact competition or have other adverse impact on this State."

It made it clear it was not passing judgment on the national implications of the deal for competition. "Any possible implications from this transaction on competition nationwide will be considered by federal authorities," it said.

But the commission was pleased that AT&T agreed to allow existing T-Mobile customers in the state to receive service on identical terms and conditions, saying that it was "swayed" by that promise.

The FCC and Justice are currently vetting AT&T's $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom--although the FCC has stopped the clock on its consideration while it reads and puts out for comment new evidence AT&T submitted demonstrating its arguments for the deal.

AT&T says the deal will leave plenty of competition, both on price and innovation, although it will leave AT&T and Sprint combined with the lion's share of the wireless market. AT&T also says the deal will speed its deployment of next-generation wireless service to unserved areas, one of the Obama Administrations major goals and something T-Mobile execs have said they were not planning to invest in.

"We are pleased that the West Virginia Public Service Commission voted on Friday to approve our merger with T-Mobile without conditions," said AT&T in a statement. "This follows approval by the Louisiana PSC last Wednesday, and by the Arizona commission on June 27. We believe this demonstrates that, after careful review, government officials continue to recognize the importance of this transaction as well as its many consumer benefits. These commissions are also recognizing that the market for wireless services is highly competitive and will remain so.