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Senate hearing scheduled for AT & T, T-Mobile deal

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 8:05am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The first Senate hearing has been scheduled for AT&T's massive $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, has scheduled a hearing on the deal for May 11.

Sen. Kohl, who will preside over the hearing, did not provide details of what will be discussed at the hearing, titled "The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Is Humpty Dumpty Being Put Back Together Again?" The senator has yet to produce a witness list for the hearing.

The title of the hearing is a reference to the AT&T "Ma Bell" telephone monopoly, which was broken up in the 1980s. 

The lawmaker has been a critic of increased consolidation in the wireless industry. In a statement issued shortly after AT&T's planned acquisition of T-Mobile was announced, Kohl said consumers have "borne the brunt" of the increasingly concentrated market for wireless service.

"The explosion of cell phone usage – especially smartphones – makes competition in this market more important than ever as a check on prices, consumer choice and service," Kohl said in a March 20 statement.

The hearing before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee next month is unlikely to be the last. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called for congressional hearings on the deal shortly after it was announced, and Sprint has called for the FCC and Department of Justice (DOJ) to examine the deal for possible antitrust issues. State attorney generals from New York and Connecticut have also pledged to conduct reviews of the merger.

Markey has yet to schedule any hearings on the acquisition. If regulators approve AT&T's buyout of T-Mobile, AT&T will become the largest carrier in the country and solidify a near duopoly hold with Verizon Wireless on the U.S. wireless market.

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