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AT&T – T-mobile Merger Approved in Three States So Far

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West Virginia is the latest state to pass the AT&T merger with T-Mobile.  The voting happened in lieu of Sprint’s attempt to open an investigation into the acquisition.

West Virginia’s decision followed earlier approval for the merge by Louisiana’s Public Service Commission last Wednesday and by Arizona on June 27.

The merger is still under review by Hawaiian and Californian commissioners, who have yet to issue their decisions.

Although West Virginia officials approved the merge after determining it would “not adversely impact competition,” it is reported by Wireless Industry News that the commission claimed they were “swayed” by AT&T’s pledge to allow existing T-Mobile customers to stay on their contract.

AT&T’s merging plans will have to be also approved by Congress and lawmakers.   Right now it looks like legislation will be AT&T’s last hurdle.  The final say will go to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Justice Department, and their decision will affect the future of the proposed merger.

According to New York Times’ Edward Wyatt, the review of the merge will also be a test for the White House.  Wyatt points out that because Obama criticized the Bush administration during his presidential campaign on their record of antitrust review, promising to increase scrutiny of merger proposals if he gets elected – the public is paying attention to the President’s next move.

Michael L. Weiner, a partner and co-chairman of the antitrust practice at Dechert, told the NY Times AT&T is basing its argument under the claim that the wireless market is highly competitive, which may help AT&T considering, in the past, the Justice Department has looked at local competition when reviewing a proposed merger.

But let’s not forget national competition, which many mobile phone customers factor in when embarking into the wireless market, such as expensive roaming charges when they travel.  And once the merge is sealed, AT&T and Verizon will control nearly 80 percent of the wireless market, leaving US customers with little choosing room.

Mr. Weiner points out that when AT&T Wireless merged with Cingular in 2004, the company focused on national benefits based on the joining of the two companies and now it is making the opposite argument.

Photo courtesy of DavidDennisPhotos via Flickr

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