Optical/IP Networks

AT&T Won't Lay Off the FCC

2:35 PM -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) felt it had no choice but to chime in about T-Mobile US Inc. 's "sad announcement" that it's closing seven call centers and laying off 1,900 workers.

But, the humble carrier wasn't offering those laid-off employees a job. No, it was giving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a big "told ya so" taunt and lecturing them on what happens when you deny it a merger.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior EVP of external and legislative affairs, wrote in AT&T's public policy blog:

Normally, we’d not comment on something like this. But I feel this is an exception for one big reason -- only a few months ago AT&T promised to preserve these very same call centers and jobs if our merger was approved. We also predicted that if the merger failed, T-Mobile would be forced into major layoffs.

He then goes on to call out the FCC for being aggressive and adamant in its claims that the merger would actually cost jobs. The rest of his post is so shockingly over-the-top that it warrants posting the entire thing here.

Rarely are a regulatory agency’s predictive judgments proven so wrong so fast. But for the government’s decision, centers now being closed would be staying open, workers now facing layoffs would have job guarantees, and communities facing turmoil would have security. Only a few months later, the truth of who was right is sadly obvious.

So what’s the lesson here? For one thing, it’s a reminder of why “regulatory humility” should be more than a slogan. The FCC may consider itself an expert agency on telecom, but it is not omniscient. And when it ventures far afield from technical issues, and into judgments about employment or predictions about business decisions, it has often been wildly wrong. The other lesson is even more important, and should be sobering. It is a reminder that in government, as in life, decisions have consequences. One must approach them not as an exercise of power but instead of responsibility, because, as I learned in my years of public service, the price of a bad decision is too often paid by someone else.

Just to be clear, the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is dead. There's no revisiting or reviving it. T-Mobile has moved on, but why AT&T can't seem to is beyond me. Putting aside the (big) facts that the merger would have, in fact, cost a lot of jobs at T-Mobile and that nothing is stopping AT&T from bringing call center jobs back to the U.S. even without the acquisition, lecturing and demeaning the FCC doesn't seem like the best strategy to improve future relations.

In fact, I'm not sure what the strategy here is at all.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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