A few months ago, the FCC said it would hand down a decision on whether to allow AT&T and T-Mobile to merge within 180 days. August 26 was day 83. The FCC decided to reset the clock to zero. So now it will be as long as another six months before the FCC announces its verdict.
There’s a comment to made here about regulatory uncertainty. There’s another one to make about the value of the FCC keeping its word. But instead I’ll concentrate on Sen. Al Franken’s recent remarks. “I am very suspicious of consolidation of power,” he told MinnPost.com.
“Big is bad” is an old argument. Age has not given it wisdom, however. Suppose a super-size phone company like a merged AT&T-T-Mobile is so big, clunky, and inefficient that it has to charge higher prices. What a golden opportunity for smaller, leaner competitors like Verizon and Sprint to swoop in and gain market share.
Now suppose instead that the merger gives AT&T and T-Mobile better economies of scale and a faster, more reliable network. Consumers flee their previous networks to join a better, cheaper one. This is hardly consumer harm — which after all, is the usual rationale for antitrust regulations.
Nobody knows if the proposed merger will work or not. But a company’s size doesn’t have much to do with whether a merger should be allowed. If a merger gives diseconomies of scale, consumers will punish it. If it improves service and prices, consumers will reward it.
Unlike the FCC, markets are impartial. Consumers are the proper arbiters of this proposed merger. Let them hand down the verdict.