AT&T rebukes FCC in wake of T-Mobile layoffs

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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In the follow-up to Thursday’s announcement from T-Mobile USA that it would be laying off 1,900 people from its call centers, senior AT&T executive Jim Cicconi took the chance to return fire on the Federal Communications Commission. Pegging the layoffs on what could be viewed as the agency’s obstruction of last year’s proposed merger with T-Mobile USA, Cicconi alleged that the lost jobs could have been saved had the merger been approved.

Cicconi, the senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, took to the company’s blog to rebuke the FCC, writing, “So what’s the lesson here? For one thing, it’s a reminder of why ‘regulatory humility’ should be more than a slogan.”

“The FCC may consider itself an expert agency on telecom, but it is not omniscient,” Cicconi wrote. “And when it ventures far afield from technical issues, and into judgments about employment or predictions about business decisions, it has often been wildly wrong. ”

AT&T and T-Mobile withdrew their merger applications from the FCC after a sour appearance in court in December 2011. AT&T and the FCC, along with the Department of Justice, had been at odds over the merger, which was first announced in March 2011. The FCC, the DOJ, Democrats and advocacy groups contended that the merger was anti-competitive and would harm consumers through what they saw as the lead-up towards an inevitable telecom duopoly between national carriers. One major concern was that the merger would lead towards a rise in consumer prices. The other, as articulated in FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s statement following the death of the merger, was that an approved deal would lead to job losses.

AT&T — under pressure from the looming crisis of the ever-increasing shortage of available electromagnetic spectrum facing the telecommunications industry — and merger advocates continually returned fire on those claims throughout the process. The merger, they contended, was a solution that would benefit consumers.

Cicconi’s Friday statement contended that the approved merger would have preserved those lost jobs, and blamed the job loss on the regulatory agency — a return salvo on the Chairman Genachowski’s statement when the deal was killed.

“The other lesson is even more important, and should be sobering,” Cicconi continued. “It is a reminder that in government, as in life, decisions have consequences. One must approach them not as an exercise of power but instead of responsibility, because, as I learned in my years of public service, the price of a bad decision is too often paid by someone else.”

While currently the No. 2 carrier in the U.S., AT&T is among the nation’s oldest carriers and has taken what could be viewed as an aggressive stance to preserve its status in the pantheon. The merger would have catapulted AT&T past Verizon into the No. 1 spot among the nation’s carriers.

The FCC did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment about the layoffs. The DOJ declined to comment.

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