updated 05:45 pm EDT, Mon June 6, 2011
FCC asks Verizon and other carriers on ATT T-Mo
The FCC on Monday sent out a request (PDF) to carriers asking them for information to help its investigation into the AT&T and T-Mobile deal. Verizon, Sprint, and regional carriers like Cellular South and US Cellular were all asked to provide responses to the deal and supporting evidence. Each got the same nine questions relating to coverage, cell site ownership, expansion, relationships with AT&T, their future spectrum plans, billing, and competitive reports.
All of the carriers have until June 20 to give their answers.
The line of questioning points to the FCC challenging AT&T's primary claims as well as addressing those raised by Sprint. AT&T has argued that the deal would alleviate a spectrum crunch and help it bring LTE-based 4G to 97 percent of the population where it thought it could only reach 80 percent before. Repeated promises have come that AT&T wouldn't hike T-Mobile rates and that competition would stay healthy, even with the four major competitors reduced to three.
Sprint has complained that AT&T's claims have been disingenuous. It has argued that AT&T was mismanaging spectrum and that much of the competition AT&T points to is just a small fraction of AT&T's size and a non-threat.
FCC officials haven't indicated their overall inclinations and aren't expected to say anything until the formal vote, when the decision becomes public. Hints have surfaced of at least some changes, but pressure exists to block the deal entirely as even concessions like divested cell sites might not affect competition.