By Brendan Sasso - 10/13/11 07:34 PM EDT
The Federal Communications Commission asked AT&T on Thursday to provide more evidence to support its claims that its purchase of T-Mobile will create thousands of jobs.
Rick Kaplan, chief of the FCC's Wireless Bureau, said information about AT&T's job claims "remains incomplete" and the company "to date has produced almost nothing in response" to the FCC's previous request for supporting data.
AT&T claims its purchase of T-Mobile will create up to 96,000 jobs in the U.S. It says if the merger is approved, it will hire thousands of workers to improve its nationwide wireless network. The company has also committed to moving 5,000 call center jobs to the United States if regulators approve the deal.
AT&T plans to more fully respond to the FCC's request, but also pointed the agency to a letter filed Thursday that discusses job creation.
"The merger will spur billions of dollars in additional investment, create thousands of jobs, and significantly narrow the digital divide while advancing the Administration’s rural broadband objectives — all of which will aid the nation’s economic recovery and future economic strength without the expenditure of public funds," wrote Robert Quinn, AT&T's federal regulatory vice president, to the FCC.
But consumer groups are skeptical of AT&T's claims. They point out that AT&T has told its investors that the merger will result in cost-savings and "synergies" for the company, which opponents of the deal argue is code for job cuts.
The FCC asked AT&T to estimate how many jobs it would cut as part of the merger's synergies.
“We have said from the beginning that this transaction is a job destroyer, not a job creator," said Gigi Sohn, president of consumer group Public Knowledge in reaction to the FCC's request for more information. “If AT&T hasn’t justified its jobs claims by now, it never will. We hope the Commission will move quickly to dispose of this transaction.”
The Justice Department's lawsuit hinges on whether the merger will substantially reduce competition in the wireless market, but the FCC is reviewing the deal to determine if it is in the public's interest. So while the arguments over job creation might be only tangential to the Justice Department's legal case, with unemployment hovering over 9 percent, they could prove critical to whether the FCC will step in to kill the deal.