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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 4, 2011 at 4:39 PM

AT&T deal to buy T-Mobile brings flood of public comment

If the FCC gives much weight to public comments, AT&T is going to have a tough time getting approval for its $39 billion acquisition of Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

Poking around the 4,227 public comments submitted so far, it was hard to find people supportive of the deal.

The opponents aren’t all T-Mobile employees. Only 190 of the comments as of Wednesday afternoon were submitted by people in Washington state, which has a huge concentration of wireless industry employees.

Texas — home of Dallas-based AT&T — generated 352 comments, but that includes filings by AT&T.

Comments can be submitted through a form on the FCC’s website, at FCC.gov/ecfs. You’ll need to enter the proceeding number, which is 11-65.

Here’s a sample of comments by Washingtonians.

“As a T-Mobile customer of approximately eight years, I am vehemently opposed to the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom,” wrote Aaron Burke of Everett. “If the deal is approved, it will sponsor massive anti-competitive behaviors, increased prices, and lower quality of service.”

Trent Gillespie of Seattle identifies himself as the chief information officer of a midsize company who has worked with different phone companies.

“In my experience, AT&T has the worst customer service of any of the wireless providers I have worked with. I believe they also use their predominant position in the market place to keep rates artificially high (especially texting and data rates), limit devices that come to market, and essentially act as an obstacle to competitiveness that would be had in a more competitive environment. On the other hand, T-Mobile is the largest U.S. cellular provider who is pursuing new ways of conducting business, a focus on customer service, and quickly bringing new technologies and devices to the market.”

Seattle’s Deepak Sukumaran cited the Clayton Antitrust Act and wrote: “In any other environment and time, this type of acquisition would not even be attempted because it is

clearly illegal and violates antitrust law. It is my opinion that given no effective regulations, these companies have and will keep consolidating and strive to re-form Ma Bell, and in so doing overturn over 100 years of progressive antitrust, anti-competitive legislation and the progress we have made.”

Triet Nguyen in Bellevue was a T-Mobile customer “until I got jealous of my iPhone friends telling me how great the iPhone is. I switched to AT&T and it was the worst mistake of my life. I regret and am counting down the days when I can switch back. AT&T has horrible phone service. I have dropped calls DAILY. I hate it when I’m talking and then find out my phone is ringing me from the person I was talking to. Their data coverage has a lot of dead spots. I never had these issues with T-Mobile. I think the merger will degrade phone service and worse, get rid of competition.”

But T-Mobile’s not perfect.

Separately, I received a copy this week of an internal memo sent to employees, after the company miscalculated severance benefits and significantly overestimated what some will receive. The memo was an apology from Larry Myers, chief people officer at T-Mobile, who said the severance estimates are being corrected.

It sounds like an awkward accounting error that’s being fixed. What’s surprising is how far along the discussion of severance has come, since the merger still needs regulatory approval and isn’t expected to close until early 2012.

A T-Mobile spokeswoman wouldn’t say much about the memo but provided a statement confirming that a mistake had been made.

“T-Mobile USA has a long history of open communication with our employees, which is why when we discovered a data error, we promptly advised our employees of the situation and provided them with updated information.”

Comments | Topics: AT&T, AT&T-Tmobile merger, FCC

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