The Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday that it had approved requests from AT&T and T-Mobile to withdraw their merger applications, filed in April.
The development came after AT&T and T-Mobile filed those requests on Nov. 23 in response to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s call for an administrative law hearing to review the proposed merger.
Telecom competitors of AT&T and T-Mobile criticized the planned merger as a competition killer. AT&T, on the other hand, claimed it would add 96,000 jobs to the existing market.
“Competition is the engine of our free market economy and a cornerstone of the FCC’s mandate,” said Genachowski, in a statement following the announcement.
“Our review of this merger has had a clear focus: fostering a competitive market that drives innovation, promotes investment, encourages job creation, and protects consumers,” he added. “These goals will remain the focus if any future merger application is filed.”
Randolph May, president of the free-market think tank Free State Foundation, said in a statement that it made sense for the Commission to grant the companies’ requests.
“The FCC can pretty much make the parties start all over again if they ever re-file their merger application,” said May, “but it can’t make the parties pursue an application they don’t want to pursue.”
Left-wing “public interest” groups Public Knowledge and Media Access Project accused the companies of “gamesmanship,” saying the withdrawal of the merger applications would stop the FCC from sharing its findings on the merger with the Justice Department.
The FCC made its findings on the merger public Tuesday as well.
AT&T is set to appear before a federal judge on Dec. 9 to present a repackaged deal in an attempt to avoid going to trial on February 13.
Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that the DOJ is “ready and eager to go to court.”