Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Microsoft, Facebook Back AT&T’s T-Mobile Deal; Google Remains Silent

    * By Sam Gustin

Wireless giant AT&T has friends in high places — and not just on Capitol Hill.
Several major technology companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Oracle, Facebook and Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry line of devices, have thrown their weight behind AT&T’s proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile. So have two of the most powerful venture capital firms in the country: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Partners.
The tech companies and VC firms expressed their support of the deal, which is being scrutinized by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, in letters filed with the FCC late Monday, The New York Times reported.
Their support constitutes a powerful endorsement from some of the heaviest hitters in Silicon Valley, and is no doubt warmly received by AT&T public policy chief Jim Cicconi, who last week characterized support for the merger as, “perhaps the broadest, deepest range of public-interest support ever filed at the FCC in support of any transaction.”
Support for the merger is not unanimous in Silicon Valley, however. In fact, one extremely important Valley company is remaining conspicuously silent on the deal: Google. A spokesperson for the web search titan confirmed Tuesday that the company has not taken a position on the merger, but declined to comment further. Tech giant Apple, which did not return a request for comment, is also staying mum on the deal.
Critics of the merger, most notably Sprint, the number three wireless company, argue that reducing the number of nationwide mobile providers from four to three would concentrate too much market power in the hands of AT&T and Verizon, which would control 80 percent of the market. The companies could use this market power to raise prices for consumers or muscle out smaller competitors, especially regional carriers.
Allowing the merger to proceed, critics say, would result in a return to a “1980’s-style” duopoly that would stifle innovation and competition in the wireless market.

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