August 2, 2011 11:38 AM

Bored with Stale Rhetoric? Take the AT&T/T-Mobile Cynicism Quiz

I haven't posted anything in a while, and that's because the only thing anyone seems to be focusing on is the AT&T/T-Mobile Merger.  In fact, at this point--during the dog days of Summer--I am genuinely bored to death with the banality of the banter between merger opponents.  If it seems like the same arguments are being made, it's because they are.  
Don't believe me?  Then see if you can correctly guess who said what, and when, starting with the proposed 2004 acquisition of AT&T Wireless by Cingular Wireless for $41 billion, which would have made Cingular the largest wireless carrier with a market share of over 40%.  Sounds familiar, no?  So, we'll start there.

Every assertion listed below is (substantively) part of an argument being made by the merging parties or their opponents at the FCC.  All you have to do is guess whether the statement was made previously or now, and whether it was made by a merger opponent or proponent.  We'll score you up at the end to rate your DC telecom cynicism.  

1)  "T-Mobile does not provide a meaningful competitive alternative [to AT&T] as a roaming partner to many cellular carriers and subscribers."

2)  "[T-Mobile] is not a significant competitive constraint on AT&T."

3)  "In many cases, T-Mobile has been unwilling to even enter into roaming agreements with rural wireless carriers."

4)  "At a minimum, the elimination of T-Mobile as a 'benchmark' firm for these purposes [offering roaming agreements to smaller carriers] frustrates the FCC's ability to monitor the emerging marketplace and ensure compliance with the pro-competitive rules adopted by the Commission."

5)  "In fact, the statements made by wireless incumbents [including T-Mobile] . . . make clear they have no intention of offering broadband with the freedom to attach any device and run any application."  [in other words, "maverick" behavior]

6)  "T-Mobile is not merely a direct competitor, but a 'maverick' whose behavior forces pro-consumer responses from larger firms despite T-Mobiles [sic] relatively modest market share."
7)  "Consumers make their wireless purchasing decisions at the local level--where they can see the devices, speak with sales representatives about the products and services, and comparison shop among competitors."

8) "The FCC should reject a national market definition.  Wireless is sold as a local product. National coverage and calling plans are one characteristic of the service, but it is bought and sold at the local level."

9)  "[T]here is clearly substantial competition among the national carriers in those portions of the country where most Americans reside, and in many cases additional competition in areas served by regional carriers . . . ."

Answers/Scoring:  Give yourself 5 points if you got the side (opponent or proponent) and the timing correct (now or previous), 3 points if you got the side correct, 1 point if you got the timing correct (anyone can read the papers or trade press), -1 point if you miss the timing (anyone can forget to read the papers or trade press), -3 points if you got the opponent/proponent wrong, and -5 points if you missed both.

1)  Opponent/Previous. Multiple groups representing rural carriers ("rural opponents") seeking roaming conditions in Cingular/AT&T Wireless acquisition, from ex parte dated 9/24/04 at 2

2)  AT&T/Now, Application, Public Interest Statement at 71, April 21, 2011.

3)  Opponent/Previous. Cingular/AT&T.  Rural opponents, at p. 5 of 6, ex parte dated 9/27/04.

4)  Opponent/Now. Petition to Deny of Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition at 8, May 31, 2011.

5)  Opponent/Previous.  Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, Comments on 700 MHz auction rules, at 4.  Applied specifically to T-Mobile at 8. May 23, 2007

6)  Opponent/Now. Petition to Deny of Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition, at 7, May 31, 2011.

7)  AT&T/Now, Ex Parte dated 7/20/2011 at 3.

8) Opponent/Previous. Petition to Deny Cingular Acquisition of AT&T Wireless, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America, pp. 4-5. 5/3/2004.

9) Opponent (at the time)/Previous. Centennial Communications Corp. Petition to Deny at 2.  VZ/Alltel merger, 8/11/2008.

Results of Scoring:

a) 40-45: You are one badass, cynical, S.O.B. (Chairman Martin, is that you?).  Seriously, if this was your score, you need to immediately call News Corp.--they need your help--and then contact the Senate Commerce Committee, because you would make an excellent future FCC Chairman.

b) 30-40:  Pretty darn good.  Definitely "Head of Federal Regulatory" material, or a very good partner at a telecom law firm.  Proudly tell all your friends you read this blog.

c) 10-30:  Average.  You could be a superior telecom reporter, legislative lobbyist, or public relations firm employee.  If you are a telecom attorney, you still need to raise your game a little, but you are probably in the same league as most partners of DC telecom firms.  You should keep reading this blog, but don't talk about it in public.

d) -10 to 10:  Oooh, not so good.  You can still read this blog, but if anyone sees it on your screen, you have to tell them you stumbled across it, while searching for porn/gambling sites.

e) -10 to -30: You probably aren't in telecom, and you probably have a life--which is all good.  Congratulate yourself, and get back to those porn/gambling sites.  If you are in telecom, get out.

f) -30 to -50:  You are doing more than fine. You're probably a big telecom company CEO, with lots of spare capacity.  Get back to your "white room" and keep ideating. 

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