There was an interesting Congressional hearing on May 11 "investigating" the proposed merger of T-Mobile into AT&T (T). T-Mobile is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom although the Senators made it sound like it was a little local operating company maybe owned by the pretty lady in its ads. The hearing kind of summarized a lot of things that are off kilter in America today:
- First, the hearing was held by a Senate subcommittee on tweedle-lee-dee and tweedle-lee-dum. The Senate really has no say over mergers. Possibly it could pass a law against the merger but post-facto laws don't normally hold up in courts. But there were a lineup of witnesses representing Sprint and regional wireless service providers asking for the government to bail them out the way banks and trains and you name it have been bailed out by federal government. And there was an unspoken meme that somehow the U.S. government could keep Deutsche Telekomm from just walking away from the market.
- Second, the theme of the hearing was bascially against large companies acquiring smaller companies for competitive reasons, calling the result in the wireless market the rebirth of a Ma Bell du-opoly (AT&T, which is really Southwestern Bell not Ma Bell, and Verizon-VZW). Only one witness--the Communications Workers of America union rep surprisingly--realized that you can't divide the market by wireless vs. landline vs. whatever communications technology is involved. As in the information technology market, the communications market is defined by the application data vs. or and voice, not the technology.
- Third, there was the underlying theme, this whole Obama-administration thing about building out communications technology to "rural America." For example, there has been a separate effort relative to fiber cable funded wastefully by stimulus money. What a waste! There are other technologies that could answer this need if there were sufficient demand. The communications suppliers shouldn't be penalized because no one lives between Fort Hays, Kansas and Colorado Springs.
That's the bigger issue. I for one still want to make that drive where you don't see anything but wheat in May for four hours knowing my cell phone won't ring. Or be able to head east out of Baker, Oregon into Hell Canyon, up through Bear, idaho and not get my messages until I reach Helena. Or ride the old Union-Pacific/Central-Pacific railbed from Promontory to eastern Nevada (actualy my phone did ring in a ghost town somewhere around Kelton).
I really don't care if Romania has more cell volume or whatever per capita. Take those rides away and this will no longer be America.
-- Dennis Byron