Reposted from the High Plains Reader

By amalia deloney

If you are one of the millions of Minnesotans who believes your phone bill is too high, be prepared: It could get a lot worse very quickly.

As you’ve no doubt heard, AT&T is trying to swallow T-Mobile to the tune of $39 billion dollars and the results would be nothing short of disastrous—especially for Minnesotans of color and low-income communities throughout the state. In order to make sure this deal doesn’t happen, my organization and hundreds of others have worked tirelessly to fight this takeover as it goes through the lengthy legal review process in Washington.

If the merger is approved and T-Mobile, a vital low cost wireless carrier, is eliminated, AT&T and Verizon would control nearly 80 percent of the wireless market. Minnesotans could see mobile service plans increasing by as much as $50 a month with only the two providers competing against one another. At a time when our country can least afford it, when Minnesota’s poverty rate is currently hovering around 10 percent, this takeover would likely cause the greatest harm to unserved and underserved Minnesotans (rural and urban alike) who rely on affordable wireless broadband services. With 31 T-Mobile locations throughout the state, over 430 Minnesotans stand to lose their jobs if this deal is approved.

We applaud Senator Franken for his call to block this merger outright and earlier this week, we too called on Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to protect our communities and deny this takeover.

Now after months of lobbying and debate, we stand at a crossroads in the fight. After over two years running the antitrust division, today is Christine Varney’s last day in her post at the Department of Justice.

Christine Varney was a strong defender of American antitrust law, protecting consumers and businesses from anticompetitive behavior. With her departure comes a great deal of uncertainty; who will carry the torch at Department of Justice and what does her absence mean for

American consumers?

President Obama will soon nominate an Assistant Attorney General to fill her role and AT&T will no doubt aggressively lobby against any candidate that possesses Ms. Varney’s commitment to competition, but we must ensure internal staffing changes do not result in our voices being lost in the shuffle. AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile would cause irreparable damage to the competitiveness of the wireless industry, and more importantly, the wallets of every mobile phone user.

As Senator Franken stated in his letter to the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission, “This transaction is not in the public interest. If approved, it would result in greatly reduced competition, the potential loss of thousands of jobs, higher consumer prices, and less innovation in technology.”

We couldn’t agree more.

[[Editor’s Note: Amalia Deloney is the Grassroots Policy Director at the Center for Media Justice, a fellow with New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and a long time board member of the MN based—Main Street Project.]]


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