Report: FCC chief wants hearing on AT&T, T-Mobile merger

Approval for AT&T's bid to buy out T-Mobile is looking less certain after the FCC's latest move.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski is looking to set up an administrative hearing regarding AT&T's proposed bid for T-Mobile, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citing "a person close to the matter" as the primary source, the WSJ posits that this will likely spell trouble for AT&T's $39 billion plan to become the nation's largest mobile carrier should it succeed in buying the nation's fourth largest (T-Mobile).

However, this move doesn't really look in favor of AT&T considering the FCC chairman's previous statement in response to the DOJ's anti-trust suit filed in August:

By filing suit today, the Department of Justice has concluded that AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would substantially lessen competition in violation of the antitrust laws. Competition is an essential component of the FCC’s statutory public interest analysis, and although our process is not complete, the record before this agency also raises serious concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on competition.

So far, Media Access Project senior vice president and policy director Andrew Jay Schwartzman has chimed in with support for the FCC. Here's an excerpt of his prepared remarks:

Even though this was something that we have expected all along, it is very promising that the FCC will be taking a hard look at the AT&T/T-Mobile transaction.  A decision to designate a hearing constitutes a finding by the FCC that there are “substantial and material” questions as to whether the deal is in the public interest.  It means the FCC has found merit in our arguments that a combined AT&T/T-Mobile will create a duopoly in the wireless market which will increase prices for service and for handsets.

Vonya McCann, Sprint’s senior vice president of government affairs, concurred with the following statement:

As Chairman Genachowski said in August when the Justice Department filed its antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, the record before the FCC presented, "serious concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on competition." That record is complete and more than justifies moving this matter to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing. We appreciate Chairman Genachowski’s leadership on this issue and look forward to the FCC moving quickly to adopt a strong hearing designation order.

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