But some of those comments are the result of bribes to officials at non-profits, political pressure, lies and deception. As I found when I investigated my story about this in eWEEK, very little about AT&T's position is what it seems. The repercussions of AT&T's conduct are already being felt - one group has fired its executive director for accepting a bribe from AT&T in return for signing a letter of support written by AT&T, that the official now says he didn't even understand.
But it's the company's conduct in other areas that is perhaps the most egregious. There's a non-profit public interest group called the Internet Innovation Alliance that presents itself as an advocate for things like rural broadband. Public interest groups in rural areas such as local and state Granges, farmers unions, farm bureaus and rural health care organizations have been told by AT&T that they'll get high-speed Internet if the merger goes through. When they speak of the desperate need by people in these areas for Internet access, you realize that the digital divide cuts many ways. These people are effectively disenfranchised because of the non-availability of broadband in their areas.
But the person who claims to be coming to their rescue, former Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher, in reality serves two masters. When he's acting as Honorary Chair of the IIA, he never mentions his other master - AT&T. Boucher, it seems, is one of AT&T's top lobbyists and a member of the law firm that has represented the company for over 100 years. AT&T is also a major contributor to the IIA.
So how does this affect you? On one hand, you have to ask yourself if your company is ready to stand behind a wireless carrier that would allegedly corrupt the system to its own ends. On the other, you have to ask whether this would ultimately hurt your company. It's no secret that any time competition is reduced, prices go up and services go down. The only winner is AT&T and its stockholders. Are you ready for higher prices, more restrictions and fewer choices? While the comment period for the FCC is about over, Congress is planning hearings on this topic.
Perhaps it's time that your company thinks about what sort of competitive environment it would like to do business in. If the picture doesn't look pretty, I'm sure your representatives in Congress would like to hear your thoughts.