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Is "Job-Killing" AT&T T-Mobile Merger a Dropped Call?

August 18, 2011

NEW YORK - Experts may differ over the exact number, but if AT&T is allowed to swallow up T-Mobile and become the largest cellphone service provider in the country, some 20,000 jobs are likely to be eliminated - most held by T-Mobile workers. As the country struggles to avoid a double-dip recession, Chance Williams of the media watchdog group says approving the takeover does not make sense.

"It's 100 percent clear that this merger is a job-killer. This is a massive horizontal merger, and that's the kind that always costs jobs."

AT&T says the merger will expand broadband service and actually create jobs.

Amalia Deloney of the Center for Media Justice points out that T-Mobile's traditionally lower-cost plans have made it a popular choice among low-income families and communities of color. She says merger-related job losses will hit those people hard, too.

"We're looking at the number of people who are employed currently at T-Mobile, 48 percent of whom are employees of color, and then the fact that, if the merger went through, as many as 20,000 people would potentially receive pink slips."

A poll just released shows the percentage of telecommunications experts who expect the government to approve the merger has dropped from 54 percent last month to 49 percent. Deloney credits public opposition for the drop in perceived support for the takeover.

"The tide is starting to turn, and it's primarily because elected officials, appointed officials and other public officials are finally understanding that the public is absolutely against this."

Williams says, on the whole, there are few reasons to okay the AT&T/T-Mobile merger and many to disallow it.

"You've got unemployment on the rise and the poverty rate at a 15-year high. There's absolutely no reason to approve a deal that's anti-competitive, that's going to cost jobs and in the end, raise consumer prices."

The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission are considering the merger.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY