Tag Archives: at&t

CEI Podcast for September 1, 2011: The Blocked AT&T-T-Mobile Merger

Have a listen here.

The Department of Justice sued this week to stop the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia thinks this is a mistake. The evidence that the merger would make the wireless market less competitive is unconvincing. Nobody knows if the merger will succeed or not. Either way, consumer harm is unlikely.

The DOJ’s Antitrust Seers

Today, the Department of Justice sued to stop the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger. They claim to know in advance how the merger will affect the mobile market for years to come. It’s an example of F.A. Hayek’s fatal conceit. Of course, most people haven’t read Hayek. So over in the Daily Caller, I use a better known thinker to make the same point:

The philosopher Yogi Berra once said that “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Let’s apply his lesson to the proposed $39 billion AT&T-T-Mobile merger…

Competitors are also surprisingly confident in their ability to predict the future. A Sprint spokeswoman said that “Sprint applauds the DOJ for conducting a careful and thorough review and for reaching a just decision … Today’s action will preserve American jobs, strengthen the American economy, and encourage innovation.”

This translates roughly to “We think the merger would make the market more competitive. We were scared that we’d have to work harder to innovate and cut costs to keep our customers happy. Whew.”

Most mergers fail. Nobody knows if a merged AT&T and T-Mobile would offer a better, cheaper product line. The only way to find out is trial and, often, error. The Justice Department’s astounding claim that it knows the merger’s effects in advance is either proof of its superior enlightenment, or else the height of hubris. I’m guessing the latter.

Read the whole thing here.

AT&T-T-Mobile Merger Delayed

A few months ago, the FCC said it would hand down a decision on whether to allow AT&T and T-Mobile to merge within 180 days. August 26 was day 83. The FCC decided to reset the clock to zero. So now it will be as long as another 6 months before the FCC announces its verdict.

There’s a comment to made here about regulatory uncertainty. There’s another one to make about the value of the FCC keeping its word. But instead I’ll concentrate on Sen. Al Franken’s recent remarks. “I am very suspicious of consolidation of power,” he told MinnPost.com.

“Big is bad” is an old argument. Age has not given it wisdom, however. Suppose a super-size phone company like a merged AT&T-T-Mobile is so big, clunky, and inefficient that it has to charge higher prices. What a golden opportunity for smaller, leaner competitors like Verizon and Sprint to swoop in and gain market share.

Now suppose instead that the merger gives AT&T and T-Mobile better economies of scale and a faster, more reliable network. Consumers flee their previous networks to join a better, cheaper one. This is hardly consumer harm – which after all, is the usual rationale for antitrust regulations.

Nobody knows if the proposed merger will work or not. But a company’s size doesn’t have much to do with whether a merger should be allowed. If a merger gives diseconomies of scale, consumers will punish it. If it improves service and prices, consumers will reward it.

Unlike the FCC, markets are impartial. Consumers are the proper arbiters of this proposed merger. Let them hand down the verdict.

Competitors: Stop That Merger!

The proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger is drawing the usual antitrust scrutiny. Fearful competitors say the $39 billion deal will make the market less competitive. Or so they say. Over at the Daily Caller, I point out that actions speak louder than words:

[I]f Sprint is willing to devote resources to fighting the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, then it probably thinks the new post-merger company will be more competitive, not less. That cuts directly against their main argument – that the merger reduces competition.

Put yourself in Sprint’s shoes for a minute. If your competitors are making what you think is a foolish business decision, you’re not going to try to stop them. If anything, you’ll actively encourage them.

Instead, Sprint’s opposition is proof positive that it thinks the competition is about to get more formidable, not less.

Antitrust authorities, blind to that obvious fact, stand a real risk of stunting the competitive process. They should ignore competitors’ pleas for special government favors and let the merger succeed — or fail — on its own terms. Real competition happens in the market. Not in Washington.

Read the whole article here.

Net Neutrality and Rent-Seeking

Here is a letter I sent recently to The Wall Street Journal:

September 22, 2009

Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

To the Editor:

Your article “Bad News for Broadband” (editorial, Sept. 22) hints at, but does not make, a key point: net neutrality proposals are driving a wedge between service providers like AT&T and content providers like Google.

Strange, is it not? Their interests are actually closely aligned. If AT&T upgrades its network, Google benefits from the increased bandwidth. If Google improves its products, AT&T benefits from increased demand for broadband.

Net neutrality proposals give companies the incentive to seek rents at each other’s expense when they could be benefiting from each other’s innovations instead. This must be music to the ears of lobbyists, but how sad for consumers.

Ryan Young
Fellow in Regulatory Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.