Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

New York Attorney General Pledges Thorough Review of ATT-T-Mobile Deal

Add the New York attorney general to the list of those who want to take a hard look at AT&T’s plan to buy T-Mobile.

In a statement on Tuesday, New York’s top lawyer said that his office will “undertake a thorough review” of the proposed $39 billion deal.

“Cell phones are no longer a luxury for a few among us, but a basic necessity. The last thing New Yorkers need during these difficult economic times is to see cell phone prices rise,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Affordable wireless service and technology, including smart phones and next generation handheld devices, are the bridge to the digital broadband future. We want to ensure all New Yorkers benefit from these important innovations that improve lives.”

The statement highlighted some of Sprint’s talking points against the deal, such as the fact that, should the deal go through, AT&T and Verizon would have a combined 80 percent share of the U.S. market.

He also added that some areas in New York, such as Rochester, Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse, have fewer wireless options already. One of AT&T’s big arguments as to why there is sufficient competition is that in many markets consumers have five or more options, when adding in regional and low-cost carriers such as Metro PCS, Cricket and others.

AT&T has also touted the deal as key to making good use of limited spectrum and expanding LTE service faster and to more of the country.

“The attorney general’s review will weigh the benefits to New Yorkers against the anti-competitive risks posed to them,” Schneiderman said.

The state review–and any others–come on top of necessary regulatory approval from both the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. antitrust regulators at the Department of Justice.

Update: AT&T issued a statement in response to Schneiderman’s concerns, making the expected arguments.

“We look forward to sharing information with the (Attorney General’s) office and remain excited about the significant consumer and competition benefits that this transaction will provide, including improved customer service and expanded high-speed LTE wireless coverage to additional residents and areas across New York State and the rest of the U.S.,” AT&T said.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik