The following statement is for today’s Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing on “The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Is Humpty Dumpty Being Put Back Together Again?” and may be attributed to Mike Wendy, Director of MediaFreedom.org:
Alexandria, VA, May 11, 2011 – No. Humpty Dumpty isn’t being put back together again. That egg was cracked by the MFJ, the ‘96 Telecom Act, and the rise of the popular Internet. Though Congress is right to examine the AT&T / T-Mobile acquisition closely, what legislators will most likely find is that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men simply couldn’t put Ma Bell back together again, even if they wanted to.
Technology, industry practices, consumer information, competition and current enforcement backstops protect consumers, helping make the wireless market vibrantly competitive. Though the proposed acquisition reduces the number of marketplace players by one, the market’s dynamism means consumers will continue to greatly benefit – not just in the wireless broadband space, but in adjacent markets, too.
Those decrying the acquisition – the professional Chicken Littles – see only peril for consumers. To them, the marketplace would be better served through small, “lemonade stand” providers. Certainly not through strong, national competitors. They ignore the fact that the communications landscape has steadily consolidated since the ’96 Telecom Act, and in doing so has opened up a communications and consumer revolution unparalleled in history.
The real peril here is not the marketplace. It works fine, and will continue to. Rather, consumers should be concerned about the resulting approval process. Akin to Star Chamber “openness,” one telecom exec recently voiced his fears that the process could be used as “an excuse for the government to insert itself into the marketplace.”
That would be a terrible result.
Wireless broadband is the future. It should be built via the same hands-off regulatory model, which propelled the wired Internet. Consequently, American broadband users should be concerned that the real Humpty Dumpty being put back together is last century’s regulator sitting at the FCC and DoJ.