Coalition group polls for consumer feeling on AT&T/T-Mobile merger

Nick R. Brown Contributor
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No Takeover Project ( released a poll Thursday that it believes shows that “the more consumers know about AT&T’s proposed takeover of T-Mobile, the more they oppose the deal,” though the poll is not without its critics.

The No Takeover Project is an organization that recently formed after the AT&T/T-Mobile merger announcement and describes itself as an organization attempting to educate consumers on four basic ideas: that the merger will reduce competition, is not about spectrum acquisition, will hurt the industry, and will hurt the American economy.

The poll released during a media briefing Thursday indicates that only 29 percent of all consumers of wireless technologies are aware that AT&T is attempting a merger with T-Mobile. However, 62 percent of AT&T customers initially responded that they supported the merger and 40 percent of T-Mobile customers also supported the merger. Forty-six percent of T-Mobile customers were opposed to the merger, and 14 percent either had no opinion or were not sure.

Upon asking respondents questions that were intended to educate them on the merger, a majority of T-Mobile customers (54 percent) then determined that the merger would be bad for them, while the 62 percent of AT&T customers that supported the merger dropped to a 48 percent approval.

“This poll shows wireless consumers recognize a bad deal when they see one,” noted Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of the Rural Cellular Association. “As more Americans become aware of the takeover, we believe the opposition number will consistently increase.”

No Takeover Project believes that information was presented fairly to wireless consumers to explain to them both sides of the issue. Bill Dalbec, senior VP at APCO who led the design analysis of the survey, explained during the media briefing that,

“AT&T believes that they’ll have compatible network technology that the customers will immediately be able to take advantage of improved service and quality on its expanded network, and that it will enable AT&T to quickly expand its coverage out to 95 percent of all Americans, give them access to high-speed mobile broadband, exactly what they have been saying all over the place including in their filings. And then we took the messages that the groups here on the No Takeover Project have been using which is basically saying that it’s going to result in less competition and higher wireless prices for all consumers, and that if approved AT&T and Verizon would control 80 percent of the wireless revenues and that this concentration of power would negatively affect consumers as they would have a greater ability to increase prices, limit choice, decrease quality, and stifle innovation. So we basically gave them a very balanced set of what they two sides are saying.”

“Consumers will see higher prices and fewer choices if this deal goes through,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, one of the sponsors of the survey. “There is nothing in this takeover to benefit consumers.”

While there seems to be a piling on of sorts in opposition to the merger, not everyone agrees the poll was presented in a fair manner. Neil Stevens, Tech at Night commentator for Red State, told The Daily Caller that, “The problem I have with this poll is that the presentation of the two sides of the debate is biased.”

Stevens went on to say that he felt that the poll presented “bland,” “irrefutable,” and mostly “irrelevant facts” as the favorables for the merger, but listed “supposition and opinion” in opposition to the merger.  “Proponents of the merger cite lower prices; why wasn’t that argument presented alongside the higher prices claim of the opponents,” he questioned.

This is not the first time Stevens has pointed out irregularities among the opposition in the merger argument.  Stevens recently noted that he believes that Sprint’s outspoken opposition to the deal actually implies that the merger would increase competition.

“Sprint’s fears make no sense,” Stevens wrote. ” If the removal of T-Mobile from the market would decrease competition, Sprint should benefit. The only reason Sprint would be harmed by the merger would be if the merger increased competition, lowering prices, and compressing the margins that keep Sprint afloat. If Sprint is weak, then it fears competition and favors oligopoly. Therefore, Sprint’s opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile deal projects the deal would increase competition nationally.”

The No Takeover Project and the associated poll were funded by Sprint and various organizations, including Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Rural Cellular Association and Media Access Project.

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Nick R. Brown