OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate Republicans worried about AT&T deal

Good evening! It's the final edition of Overnight Tech for the week. Write to sjerome@thehill.com with tips, suggestions and complaints. 

GOP senators concerned about unemployment after AT&T merger: Amid concern that T-Mobile workers could be laid off by the thousands in the wake of A&T's acquisition, Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe sent a joint letter to AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson raising concern about call center employees in Oakland, Maine, which reportedly employs around 800 people. AT&T does not currently operate call centers in Maine. MORE BELOW.

FYIP: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) patent bill began circulating today. Hearing next week.

AT&T/T-Mo chiefs meet with FCC commissioners: Commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker, Michael Copps and Robert McDowell met with the CEOs of AT&T and T-Mobile on Wednesday, aides to the commissioners confirmed. Randall Stephenson of AT&T and René Obermann of T-Mobile are arguing to the FCC that their deal is in the public interest, the basis the FCC must use to evaluate the merger. The public interest argument is premised on AT&T plans to spend $8 billion dollars upgrading its networks as well as a promise to extend advanced wireless services to 95 percent of the population, a White House priority. Politico first reported the meetings here

CALIFORNIA GEARS UP TO PROBE AT&T/T-MOBILE: The Bay State is among the first to announce it's plan to scrutinize AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey announced the review during a commission meeting Thursday. “Wireless service is becoming a necessity," Peevey said. "Many consumers have cut the cord." The review will look at impacts on wireless coverage and prices. It will be forwarded to federal officials. Peevey noted the number of major national wireless carriers will shrink from four to three. Source: The Bay Citizen http://s.tt/129qc.

Back to Senate concern over AT&T merger: 

MAINE LETTER IS IMPORTANT: Sen. Snowe is active on telecom issues and is a top member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which will review the merger. Collins is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that approves the FCC's budget. They addressed their letter directly to AT&T's chief executive Randall Stephenson. 

PULL QUOTE 1: “We are writing to express our profound concern about the impact on Maine jobs that could result from AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile,” the senators wrote. “We urge you to consider the impact of your proposed acquisition on the call center’s employees, and ask that you update the employees regarding any developments that may affect them and their families.”

PULL QUOTE 2: The call center is “one of T-Mobile’s most successful and highest performing" and employs “nearly 800 Maine residents.” Dan DiGirolamo, the call center’s director of customer service and sales, said Monday that the center has between 650 and 700 employees, depending on call volumes during the year.

PULL QUOTE 3: According to the letter, “the facility has consistently been ranked as one of the ‘Best Places to Work in Maine’ by the Best Companies Group, and its workers contribute greatly to T-Mobile’s frequent awards for customer satisfaction and quality from J.D. Power & Associates.”

Yellow light!: Per The Kennebec Journal, an AT&T spokeswoman said it is "premature" to know whether the Oakland call center will be impacted. AT&T says the merger will create jobs because the company is promising to invest billions in infrastructure. The quotes were from The Kennebec Journal

Issa wants details on FCC White House visits: House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) wants to know if top Federal Communications Commission officials were discussing net neutrality with the White House while formulating their rules, and how much the White House might have been directing the conversation. Issa wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday asking for more information on the numerous visits made to the White House by top FCC officials while the commission was formulating its net-neutrality rules, which were passed in December. More: http://bit.ly/hsH12z.

NPR: Fair and balanced? NPR news host says yes: An opinion piece from Steve Inskeep, co-host of NPR's "Morning Edition," argues that "the recent tempests over 'perceived bias' have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air." He says that NPR listeners come from every part of the country. "Conservatives in our diverse audience let us know when they disagree with our coverage — as do liberals, who've sent notes for years to advise me that I am conservative. Most listeners understand that we're all figuring out the world together, calmly and honestly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect." More in the WSJ: http://on.wsj.com/hvERQs.