Bill Would Limit FCC Review of Proposed Mergers

Lora Bentley

President Obama just nominated two of the Federal Communications Commission's former legal advisers to fill the seats that are already or soon will be vacant. As new commissioners, one of the things they will tackle is the agency's continuing review of the proposed AT&T, T-Mobile merger.

 

AT&T announced an intention to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion in March. Because the proposed merger would reduce the U.S. mobile market from four players to two major players (Verizon and the new AT&T) and a third smaller player (Sprint), U.S. antitrust regulators were quick to dig into a review of the antitrust implications of the deal. Who can blame them, given AT&T's history?

 

Various stakeholders were also quick voice their opinions on the merger - both for and against. Sprint obviously didn't like the idea, while Verizon was all for it. Ultimately, the Department of Justice blocked the deal, but AT&T has sought review of that decision.

 

It remains to be seen how the court will rule, but a group of legislators has set out to see that the FCC's review of the deal - and future merger reviews - is limited. According to Reuters, the Republican-sponsored bill would replace the agency's current standard of review - that the merger is in the public interest - with "a more narrowly tailored standard based on merger-specific terms."

 

The bill would also limit the conditions the FCC could place on merging companies. As writer Jasmine Melvin notes, the measure would likely pass the Republican-led House of Representatives, but face stiff opposition in the Senate.



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