Plenty of folks have come forward to oppose the proposed merger of AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-mobile, but none of them have the clout of the merger’s newest opponent.
Senator Herb Kohl–the chairman of the Senate committee that deals with antitrust law–sent a letter today to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that the deal would just replace the monopoly that AT&T used to have over the phone system “with a near-duopoly of AT&T and Verizon.” The letter was also sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, according to a Reuters (NYSE: TRI) report.
Critically, Kohl said that regulators looking at the deal should be look at the telecommunications market as a single, national market–not a series of local markets, as often happens in regulatory review.
It’s important to note that while Kohl may be powerful when it comes to antitrust policy in the U.S. generally, he doesn’t have any direct control over whether this merger is approved. That will be up to the usual antitrust regulators at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
But Kohl’s statement will influence the public debate on the issue; and as chairman, he could hold hearings on the issue and make more of a ruckus.
AT&T told Politico that it thinks the deal will still get approved. The company also made Kohl’s view sound like a minority opinion, stating: “[W]e feel his view is inconsistent with antitrust law, is shared by few others and ignores the many positive benefits and numerous supporters of the transaction.”
AT&T’s spin is sounding a bit stretched there. The merger does have some important supporters, including a coalition of big tech companies like Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Facebook, as well as certain labor unions. But the pool of supporters wasn’t large to begin with and seems to be shrinking, not growing.