Minority groups back AT&T/T-Mobile merger

“They cut us 60 percent for some reason,” Alford said, noting the NBCC supported Verizon’s purchase of MCI and Sprint-Nextel as well.

“We have been consistent in our views of mergers in the telecom industry. We certainly haven’t been bought off, let me assure you.”

Likewise, Hollis denied having discussed the merger with AT&T or T-Mobile before his organization issued its statement on the merger, noting that doing so would have been a violation of Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Hollis characterized the acquisition of T-Mobile by one of its competitors as inevitable, and positioned AT&T as the most appealing option because of its unionized workforce.

He told Hillicon the deal would help bring the goals of the National Broadband Plan to fruition by spreading access to 95 percent of the nation.

“I think this deal is one for the ages,” Hollis said. “It create accessible and affordable broadband access to communities that have been underserved. In particular, communities of color.”

Alford noted his organization has been consistent in its support over the years for all mergers in the telecom industry, arguing concerns about price increases and innovation haven’t been borne out by reality.

“We see it as being a global market … [AT&T/T-Mobile] should benefit businesses and send prices down,” Alford said, noting African-Americans disproportionately rely on wireless phones and mobile broadband access to stay connected. “Consolidation is not a concern in this global economy.”

The groups’ statements also mirror those issued by hundreds of minority advocacy groups and lawmakers in support for Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal last year. That deal was approved by the government in January over vocal objections from competitors.

Minority Media & Telecom Council President David Honig said his organization has not yet taken a stance on the merger, but expressed irritation at critics who question the motives of minority organizations supporting the merger.

“Give these organizations credit for being intelligent. It doesn’t take a long time to analyze things. They aren’t corrupt and they weren’t paid,” Honig said.

“We’ve seen no examples of reputable organizations that do things because of financial contributions. It’s wrong to suggest such things.”

Honig pointed out that the motives of consumer groups are rarely questioned — the groups lined up in opposition to the merger even more quickly.

“Organizations would never suggest that those opposing it have gotten paid by Sprint. It debases the debate and doesn’t give respect to the dignity, judgment and intelligence of these organizations.”

Hollis said his organization released its statement in coordination with the Communications Workers of America, whose ranks include thousands of AT&T employees. He said it was clear AT&T had been the best among wireless firms in terms of “respecting the collective bargaining rights of employees.”

“The acquisition ensures AT&T a strong telecom workforce well-positioned to compete globally, while offering tens of thousands of T-Mobile USA employees the opportunity to make their jobs good jobs by benefitting from the pro-worker policies of AT&T, one of the only unionized U.S. wireless companies,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

A spokeswoman for the CWA said the other potential partner for T-Mobile was Sprint, which uses an incompatible technology, meaning the two networks would be unable to share spectrum.

She also pointed out that AT&T is planning to finance the deal without incurring debt, which she said would leave resources available to expand broadband access.


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