Walden Notes Concerns About Competition, Scope of Conditions for AT&T Merger

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Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, said in a June 8 speech that his concerns about AT&T Inc.'s proposed takeover of T-Mobile USA Inc. relate to the potential effects of the $39 billion deal on competition in the wireless market and also the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission will impose non-merger related conditions on the combined company.

Delivering remarks to the Oregon and Washington Telecommunications Associations, Walden made clear, however, that he was not prepared to make judgments about the merits of the merger.

“America's economic growth and vitality is dependent on competitive and innovative free markets. I am thus interested in learning whether the merger promotes competition for consumers and encourages innovation in the technology manufacturing sector,” Walden said in the speech, the text of which was made available in Washington. “If not, it may lead the industry further into the watering hole of government regulation.”

He added that he is concerned about the “public interest” conditions the FCC might place on the merger if approved.

“Conditions placed on any merger should be limited to those conditions necessary to address risks to consumers that arise as a direct result of the merger,” Walden said. “Mergers should not be used to impose conditions that are better suited for generic proceedings where all industry and consumer groups have an equal opportunity to weigh in. The merger between AT&T and T-Mobile is historic in scope and potential impacts and needs to be carefully, fairly and expeditiously considered by the DOJ and the FCC. I look forward to participating in that discussion.”

Walden confirmed that his sub-panel will hold a hearing on the merger later this summer. Sources said both the House and Senate Commerce committees are expected to hold their hearings in July.

In reviewing the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, the FCC will assess whether the merger serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity, officials said, while the Justice Department will assess whether a combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would be anti-competitive under antitrust law.

By Paul Barbagallo