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AT&T Rubber Stamp Will Cost Consumers

The Justice Department today rubber stamped the $78 billion merger of AT&T and BellSouth — deserting its post as the public’s shield against corporate monopolies.

The merger now goes to the Federal Communications Commission for final approval. The deal would effectively resurrect the Ma Bell monopoly that ruled our nation’s communications industry for nearly a century.

The only ones standing in the path of a new AT&T monopoly are citizens like you. Tell the FCC:

Don’t Let Ma Bell Monopolize the Internet

The merger of AT&T and BellSouth would create a network behemoth that controls nearly half of all telephone land lines in the United States. But the new AT&T presents a far greater threat.

Under the rule of CEO Ed Whitacre, the company is leading the effort to gut Net Neutrality — the longstanding principle that prevents phone companies from controlling what you do, where you go and what you see on the Internet.

Soon all digital media — telephone, TV, radio and the Web — will enter homes via a single broadband connection. Whitacre is trying to control this “pipe” — and the billions of dollars at stake — by erecting new Internet toll booths and discriminating against Web sites that can’t afford their new fees.

If the FCC doesn’t place any conditions on the mega-merger, nothing would prevent the new AT&T from taking away the free and open Internet that has fostered unprecedented economic innovation and democratic participation.

The good news is that we have some allies at the FCC. Two of the four commissioners who will vote on the merger have indicated that they will support Net Neutrality conditions as part of any merger. But they need strong public support to prevail.

Tell the FCC: No AT&T Merger without Net Neutrality

Before the FCC rules, it needs to hear from you. Please forward this e-mail to everyone you know.

Onward,

Ben Scott
Policy Director
Free Press
www.freepress.net

P.S. For more information on the AT&T-BellSouth merger, please visit: www.freepress.net/att

P.P.S. For another take on the deal, watch our exclusive YouTube interview with Richard P. Merryweather, president and CEO of CT&T Com:

Part I: “The Merger and Me
Part II: “Money Well Spent” 
 

Consumer Groups: DOJ Rubberstamp on AT&T/BellSouth Merger Recreates the MA Bell Dynasty, Sells Out Consumers

Consumer Groups Say FCC Conditions Are Now Imperative

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ — Consumer groups today blasted the Justice Department for approving without restriction the merger between telephone giants AT&T and BellSouth — the largest telecommunications merger yet, a move likely to leave consumers with fewer choices and inflated prices for a host of services.

“DOJ’s rubberstamp on this merger suggests the Justice Department has thrown in the towel on competition between the Bell phone companies,” said Gene Kimmelman, senior vice president for Consumers Union. “The Justice Department has abdicated responsibility to promote the competition it promised when it broke up AT&T 20 years ago,” he added. “In the end, the majority of consumers will end up paying inflated prices that result when Bell companies merge and dominate local, long distance, wireless and Internet services in their territories.”

The AT&T/BellSouth merger is just the latest in a ten-year wave of consolidation following passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act — legislation intended to unleash competition among the baby Bells in both local and long-distance service. Instead, the eight baby Bells consolidated into just four companies and gobbled up long distance carriers. Just last year, DOJ approved the SBC and Verizon buyouts of long distance carriers AT&T and MCI, respectively. Meanwhile, competition in local phone service has declined as Bell companies sued to eliminate pro-competitive policies in the Act.

Despite claims that this merger might foster competition between phone companies and cable giants, the fact is that cable companies are just now entering the phone market and are not positioned to compete with the national phone behemoth that will exist as a result of this merger. The other potential competitor — voice-over-internet phone service (VOIP) — that relies on broadband connections, is threatened by the ability of the Bells and cable companies with broadband wires to disrupt VOIP transmissions.

According to Mark Cooper, research director for Consumer Federation of America, “New Internet telephone service which could compete against phone companies can now be blocked by the merging AT&T and BellSouth giant. Consumers know that without real competition, prices will continue to go up and the drive for innovation will evaporate.”

“DOJ’s decision today makes the Federal Communications Commission’s review of the merger even more critical,” said Kimmelman. “With DOJ closing up shop on competition, FCC needs to step up and impose meaningful conditions that will salvage what little competition is left. The government has been deceived before by false promises that mergers of potential competitors benefit the public. It should not be fooled again.”

Details about today’s DOJ decision can be found at http://www.hearusnow.org.

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