By Gautham Nagesh - 09/15/11 06:08 PM EDT
Fifteen House Democrats led by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) wrote to President Obama on Thursday urging his administration to swiftly settle the Justice Department's lawsuit to block AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA.
“By settling the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, we can put thousands of Americans back to work and promote economic development across the country," Shuler said.
The Justice Department filed suit to block the deal at the end of last month, arguing the elimination of T-Mobile from the national wireless market would harm competition and raise prices for consumers. Both sides are expected in federal court next Wednesday to discuss the possibilities of a settlement.
DOJ could potentially withdraw its lawsuit if AT&T agrees to divestitures, pricing guarantees or some other conditions. Shuler urged the Obama administration to find an acceptable middle ground and approve the deal, a SITE study that claims the merger will create tens of thousands of new jobs.
"We recognize that the Department of Justice has intervened in the merger to ensure competitive markets and protect consumers," wrote lawmakers including Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Joe Baca (D-Calif.), John Barrow (D-Ga.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.).
"Addressing these concerns through a settlement agreement that ensures robust competition while preserving the job creation, capital infrastructure investment and wireless broadband deployment benefits of the merger should be the Department’s goal."
The lawmakers also refer to AT&T's pledge to deploy next-generation wireless broadband to 98 percent of the country if the merger is approved, as opposed to the firm's current plan to deploy to 80 percent of the nation.
The revelation that the additional cost of building out the network would be $3.8 billion or roughly one-tenth of the cost of the T-Mobile transaction has been pinpointed by some critics as a primary reason to block the merger.
They argue AT&T's broadband pledge would be possible without the deal. AT&T has said it can't and won't build out the network absent the merger.
This story was updated at 3:19 p.m.