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Media Watchdog says AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Could Hurt CT Minorities

June 24, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - A national media watchdog group is raising concerns about the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, warning it could stifle competition, with higher rates impacting consumers in general and minorities in particular.

Combining the companies, which serve many Connecticut residents, would create the largest wireless carrier in the United States and leave only three companies controlling 80 percent of the market.

Amalia Deloney, grassroots policy director for the Center for Media Justice, says she has no doubt that one outcome of the merger would be higher rates. People of color will be significantly impacted, she says, because so much of daily life these days is done online.

"Both blacks and Latinos - I think it's about 16 percent of English-speaking Latinos and 18 percent of African-Americans - access the Internet exclusively through wireless devices. So obviously, this is something that's really huge."

Officials in New York and two other states have launched investigations into the possible anti-competitive impacts of the merger, including a lack of incentive to improve wireless broadband service, which lags behind that of other nations.

Consumer Reports found that T-Mobile charges less than many competitors for several of its calling plans. After the merger, Deloney expects T-Mobile's rates to rise to match those of AT&T and other major carriers.

"Not only will the prices for T-Mobile customers go up on average somewhere between $30 and $50 a month but the ability for AT&T to set a price point that's well beyond what people can afford is completely possible."

Monday was the final day that documents concerning the merger could be received by the Federal Communications Commission. Observers don't expect the government's decision to be announced before year's end.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT