West Virginia on Friday approved the proposed merger of AT&T with former rival T-Mobile, becoming the third state to give its consent to the deal. Officials speaking on behalf of the state's utilities commission essentially remarked that they approved the merger because they felt that it posed no threat to other companies' ability to compete for business. T-Mobile currently only serves 0.26 percent of the state.
The merger is still undergoing review in California and Hawaii, but Louisiana approved the deal Wednesday, following the lead of Arizona, the first to give its consent. The approval of individual states, although they don't ultimately have the power to influence whether or not the deal is allowed to go through by federal regulators, can make the process easier. If individual states disapprove, they can slow the process with lawsuits and impede it further by putting their own restrictions and requirements on it.
On the federal level, the merger is the source of more than its fair share of criticism and controversy. Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who is the head of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, has already sent an open letter to regulators asking them to deny the merger, maintaining that it will negatively affect both market competition and consumers.
He's not the only one with that view. Media analysts and bloggers have decried the move as well, alleging that with T-Mobile effectively disappearing if the merger goes through, the sheer size of AT&T at that point will allow the company to dictate pricing packages and the availability of devices, among other things.
The merger is also expected to have detrimental consequences for Sprint, the third largest carrier, making it even more unstable as it gets pushed to the bottom of the ladder. The company posted dismal July numbers in overall profits and subscription customers, and continues to struggle to find a way to increase both. The AT&T and T-Mobile merger, if approved, is expected to cause Sprint to slide even further.
- West Virginia