By Sara Jerome - 03/31/11 03:03 PM EDT
Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has strong doubts about AT&T's proposal to buy T-Mobile, calling it a "steeper climb" than the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, a transaction he voted to block.
"This is maybe even a steeper climb from the standpoint of a lot of power and a lot of influence given to one company in a world where two companies are going to control around 80 percent [of the market]," he said on an episode of C-SPAN'S "The Communicators," which will air this weekend.
Copps raised concerns that the merger review would "suck the oxygen out of the room" for telecom issues before Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission, and suggested strong conditions might not be enough to justify a combination of this magnitude.
"Sometimes it seems like we're just the federal merger commission," he said. "Why do we spend so much time trying to make what some people would deem unpalatable minimally acceptable? ... Is that the best we can do for competition?"
The FCC must scrutinize "what competition will be left" and what the impact on U.S. jobs will be. He said he is looking into the latter question but has yet to find a sufficient answer. AT&T's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, indicated Wednesday that he's not sure what the net job impact will be, suggesting to Dow Jones he expects both layoffs and hiring if the transaction goes through.
Copps said he is concerned the issue will put incentive auctions and public safety communications on the backburner. The presence of one fewer company could change how attractive those ideas are to policymakers.