From the moment AT&T announced a $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile almost two weeks ago, many industry watchers agreed that the deal would face close scrutiny from federal regulators. The deal would, after all, lump an estimated 130 million subscribers under one carrier and make AT&T the only major GSM provider in the country.
AT&T has yet to file the official merger documents with the Federal Communications Commission, but one agency official already has said the deal may face a "very steep climb." In an interview with C-Span that will air today, Commissioner Michael Copps, the senior Democrat at the FCC, called the transaction "huge" and "paradigm-altering." He also said it concerns him more than January's Comcast-NBC Universal merger, a marriage that Copps voted against.
"You will remember in the Comcast merger, I said at the outset it would have been a very steep climb for me," Copps said according to an interview transcript published by Politico. "This is maybe an even steeper climb from the standpoint of a lot of power and a lot of influence given to one company in a world where two companies are going to control, like, 80 percent of the spectrum."
Copps predicted that having one fewer carrier in the market could slow down future incentives auctions for the available wireless spectrum. Though he wouldn't mention specific conditions for approval, Copps said the FCC will seriously consider whether it would call for divestitures in certain markets. "It comes down to all the considerations of whether this serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity," he said. "That's our charge. I hope that we will fulfill it."