Will the Carriers Kill the Mobile Revolution?

Opposition to AT&T's T-Mobile land grab is growing

Meanwhile, opposition to the AT&T merger with T-Mobile is growing. The FCC has posted a list of 50 questions for the giant carrier, asking it to defend claims that the $39 billion acquisition, which would give the combined company about 130 million customers, is in the public interest and necessary to extend and improve wireless voice and data services.

The FCC wants AT&T to produce "all plans, analyses, and reports discussing the relative network spectrum capacity constraints of the company and other mobile wireless service providers, including any relevant pricing, traffic, and spectrum-efficiency assumptions."

Sprint, which would be the biggest loser if the deal goes through, has been beating the drums to kill it. Although it's easy to be cynical about Sprint's motives, it makes a concise argument that it is worth quoting:

It [the FCC] can reject AT&T's bid to take over T-Mobile and extend the last two decades of robust competition in the wireless industry -- competition that has promoted economic growth and advanced U.S. global leadership in mobile communications. Or the commission can approve the takeover and let the wireless industry regress inexorably toward a 1980s-style duopoly. A duopoly of the two vertically integrated Bell companies would result in less choice for consumers and higher prices. A twin-Bell duopoly would stunt investment and innovation. No divestitures or conditions can remedy these fundamental anti-consumer and anti-competitive harms. AT&T's takeover of T- Mobile must be blocked.

For the record, here's AT&T's lengthy justification of the merger.

I don't think the government should go back to the kind of stifling regulation that existed before the breakup of AT&T in the 1980s. But in an odd way, the carriers themselves want to turn back the clock. They'd like to have something akin to the monopoly enjoyed by Ma Bell (in this case, it would be a duopoly) in the decades following World War II -- but without the regulation that at least protected businesses and consumers that depend on its service.

Such a shift to an essentially unregulated market couldn't come at a worse time. The use of mobile devices is growing exponentially, a trend that will accelerate as new platforms appear and older ones get better. Just think about how much data users of devices like the new Google Chromebooks, which is almost entirely browser-centric, will consume. What's more, new applications will move to the fore; it would be a disaster if the carriers become so powerful they could discriminate against apps or content that seem contrary to their business imperatives.

Letting AT&T and Verizon carriers get their way would be a huge blow to the mobile revolution.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Will the carriers kill the mobile revolution?," was originally published byInfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latesttechnology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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