Justice sends clear signal to AT&T: No more T's
Thursday, September 1, 2011
The Justice Department
’s decision to sue to disconnect the conversation between AT&T and T-Mobile
is being hailed by many consumer advocates as a victory for competition even as it comes at a potential cost of $3 billion to the company formerly known as Ma Bell.
The move to quash the $39 billion deal also signals a more aggressive posture by the Obama administration
to tamp down these mega-mergers that were hailed by the previous White House occupant as good for the free enterprise system.
Justice Department officials say the key to their decision is the threat to consumer choice if AT&T adds a T
. It’s a legitimate concern, even in a state as metropolitan and technologically savvy as Massachusetts.
In the Spring issue, CommonWealth had a map that showed the availability of all five major cell phone carriers across the state
, which counts Sprint
separately. East of Route 128, all five carriers were available to 97 percent of the population but the further west you travel, the less options there are. In the Berkshires
, only 55 percent of the population can choose any of the five while about 20,000 customers, mainly out west, have just one carrier to choose from. Adding T-Mobile to the AT&T family would have reduced that even more
while creating the nation’s biggest cell company.
AT&T may have thought its road to behemoth status would be easily traversed, prompting them to pledge a $3 billion payment to T-Mobile’s German owner Deutsche Telekom
if the merger failed. And with that kind of coin on the line, AT&T will likely not give in without a fight
But the telecom may have been hoisted on its own petard. In 2009, when Google
was in the midst of joining with Yahoo
, AT&T used its influence in Congress and elsewhere to block the merger
. Industry observers say AT&T was eyeing its own entry into the online ad business and a gargantuan such as Goo-Hoo would have made their efforts Herculean.
Many of those same arguments are now coming home to roost in the Justice planned suit against the AT&T merger.
The Justice suit also begets the question of whether this is a waking tiger that is forcefully defending the nation’s consumers or if it’s low-hanging fruit in the run-up to an election
where President Obama
is positioning himself as champion of the little guy.
The Justice Department under Obama turned its head while Exxon
gobbled up XTO Energy
in a $30 billion takeover but used the threat of a suit to extract concessions from Comcast
before allowing the takeover of NBC Universal
. In May, the department filed suit against H&R Block
in its attempt to buy a tax software developer for $287.5 million.
It’s an uneven record with mixed messages for the antitrust division’s top enforcer
, Christine Varney
, a former Internet lobbyist and a top official at the Federal Trade Commission
One thing is certain, though: They can hear her now. --JACK SULLIVAN BEACON HILL
State Treasurer Steve Grossman
says the state will save about $1 million a year
over the next three years after his office put four banking services contracts out for competitive bidding.
Grossman endorses a plan to cap the number of liquor licenses in Lawrence
and enforce 1 a.m. closing times, but he says the Lawrence Licensing Board must enact the changes. The Eagle-Tribune
has the story
.State Auditor Suzanne Bump tells
the Lowell Sun
spending problems at special needs educational collaboratives are not isolated. She also wants the Legislature to give her the authority to audit any organization
– even nongovernmental entities – that spend public money. NECN’s Jim Braude talks
to Bump. To read the audits
and Bump’s proposed reforms, go to CommonWealth.
The liquor license of a Tyngsboro bar
is suspended for 11 days after investigators from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission
played there on video poker machines, the Lowell Sun reports
The Berkshire Eagle
says Sal DiMasi
should do “serious time” for his “serious crimes.”
State Rep. Will Brownsberger
, who signed a letter criticizing House Speaker Robert DeLeo
’s leadership last year, will run
for the state Senate seat being vacated by Steven Tolman
. Joe Battenfeld says
he has three reasons why Joe Kennedy II
should run for governor in 2014, and they’re named Tim Murray
, Steve Grossman and Suzanne Bump. “Does anyone want to see that primary race?” the Herald
columnist asks. IRENE
Rivers begin to recede in western Mass., and Vermont
continues to clean up after its 100-year floods
. The town of Adams
tries to figure out how to gain access to a part of the community cut off by a mudslide
. National Grid
says 70,000 Bay State customers are still without power
, down from 500,000 at the outage peak on Sunday. The MetroWest Daily News
echoes the growing complaints that both NStar
and National Grid need to work on their communications skills
after municipal officials complained that they didn’t get the cooperation they needed from the utilities.MUNICIPAL MATTERS Bridgewater
’s town manager says he will explore switching from National Grid as the power supplier
for the town’s residents after the utility’s performance after the weekend’s storm.NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON President Obama gives in
to Republican pressure and moves his post Labor Day
jobs address from Tuesday to Wednesday.ELECTION 2012
The Daily Beast reports
on a jobs headache with Boeing
that could plague President Obama heading into election season.Mitt Romney
is not exactly being welcomed with open arms by tea partiers, the Globe reports
Some tea party groups launch a boycott
appearances. It might be a little late
to start courting the movement
; but Romney has no choice given the surge by Rick Perry.
Meanwhile, Perry says there are no skeletons in his closet.
Oh, and there’s absolutely no bad blood between Perry and former President George W. Bush
, which is why former Bush speechwriter David Frum
is gleefully spreading around
that recent story about Perry’s amazing
real estate acumen. Jon Huntsman
continues to tilt at windmills, this time encouraging
Congress to strip deductions and loopholes from the tax code.
The Service Employees International Union,
which fought against corporations being able to spend unlimited sums in political campaigns, is ramping up its spending
on ads to take down Scott Brown
Foreclosures in Massachusetts increased in July.
The tortuous transfer of the land at the closed South Weymouth Naval Air Base
, which is being developed for housing, offices and biotech, inched one step closer to finalization
officials and the agency overseeing the conversion signed a deal to get a deal by Nov. 15.EDUCATION
At Bridgewater State
and Salem State
universities, students are returning to campuses that are now completely smoke free
-- indoors and out. North Shore Community College
is set to join them on January 1, the Lynn Item reports
. Framingham State
opens a new residence hall.
The moratorium on federal earmarks
is hitting Massachusetts colleges and universities hard, the Globe reports
We have a financial literary crisis
among college students, reports
the Daily Beast.Former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee
offers some observations on education after her appearance at an annual summer forum
on Martha’s Vineyard.
A Michigan GOP lawmaker wants to privatize public school teaching.
With the first snowflakes still a few months away, several South Shore towns have already extended their school years
because of opening delays caused by Irene.California
is poised to pass
the politically-charged Dream Act. ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
The Newton Tab interviews Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmel.
Evergreen isn’t alone. Solyndra,
a California solar panel maker that received $535 million in federal loans, shuts down and plans to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Washington Post reports
A 2-megawatt solar plant will save Pittsfield about $2 million on town energy bills.CRIMINAL JUSTICE President Obama’s uncle will fight
deportation proceedings after his arrest on drunken driving charges. In an editorial
, the Globe
says if he’s convicted of the charges he should be deported to Kenya.
Popsicles help keep the peace at the overcrowded Middlesex jail
in Cambridge, WBUR reports
.MEDIA Time interviews Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks
about his new book, Is Marriage for White People?
With 70 percent of black children born to unwed mothers, Banks suggests black women should look beyond their race for marriage partners.
Radio Boston interviews Caryl Rivers
and Rosalind Barnett
, coauthors of The Truth about Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children.
Forget the newspaper. The New York Times
is working on a bathroom mirror
that can give you your headlines while you brush your teeth, reports
the Nieman Journalism Lab.