AT&T spared no expense in 2011 when it sought government approval of its $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile. The merger would have created a duopoly, leaving AT&T and Verizon in control of nearly 80 percent of the wireless market.
AT&T would then have been able to set higher prices, at a cost to people on modest incomes who depend on their cell phones to connect with work, family, and the details of modern life.
The poor and people of color would have been hard-hit. The National Hispanic Media Coalition, for example, said the merger would increase the cost of wireless services for Latinos. And the Center for Media Justice noted that the merger would have resulted in “fewer options and higher prices” for people of color, who disproportionately depend on access to the Internet through mobile devices.
Knowing there would be opposition to this deal, AT&T began doling out money in Washington, D.C. The company spent $16 million on lobbying during the first nine months of 2011 in its drive to pass the merger, dished out $2 million in campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, and spent $40 million on advertisements promoting the deal.
So it wasn’t surprising to see many Wall Street analysts predict that the merger would sail to approval.
But the establishment was wrong. Despite AT&T’s massive political influence, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit in August to block the merger. Days before Thanksgiving, the FCC announced its opposition. By Christmas, the deal was dead…
…A coalition of public interest groups and wireless companies—including Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, the Future of Music Coalition, the Media Access Project, Sprint and Cricket—worked to block the merger.”