Kristi Swartz for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported that, although AT&T’s Wireless operations are based out of Atlanta, Georgia, and the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger has received support from elected officials and the business community, alike, a considerable sum of Atlanta residents have filed comments with the FCC opposing the merger.
“The Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Technology Association of Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal, state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are among the city and state officials who filed comments backing the move,” said Swartz. But “outside of its officials, few Atlantans who posted comments lent support to the wireless carrier that has employed thousands of workers and contributed millions to the metro area in corporate sponsorships and grants.”
The most interesting part of Swartz’s assessment is not that Atlantans seem to be opposing the merger, but that Free Press was the major force behind that opposition.
According to Swartz, “More than half of the opposition comments from Atlanta residents were identical, taken from a statement posted on a website by the Free Press, a nonprofit media-reform organization.”
For all its talk about the influence of “big telecom,” Free Press’ lobbying prowess never ceases to amaze me. As a grassroots messaging machine, the organization has near impeccable style, indoctrinating its members in a narrow, one-note style and creating mass hysteria around the prospects of what might happen, instead of founding its beliefs in factual evidence.
Regardless of whether AT&T obtains 43% market share if this merger is approved, that doesn’t stop Verizon, Sprint, Boost Mobile, Cricket, Virgin Mobile, U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS or Tracfone from continuing to render affordable, high-quality service. In fact, if AT&T wants to maintain the 129 million subscribers it will have once the merger is approved, it would behoove the company to keep rates affordable and service quality high, lest they experience a mass flight from consumers.
The unfortunate thing about the Free Press approach is that it consistently takes for granted the ability of consumers to choose – to mandate high quality service at rates they can afford if a provider wants to maintain their business. With cellular service in particular, the availability and choice between providers is ever-present. You don’t like your service? Guess what, there are several other carriers you can choose from. The constant drum-beat of the Free Press mantra ‘bigger ain’t better’ is overwrought and overblown at this point…but hey, without controversy, Free Press wouldn’t have a purpose, and it couldn’t pay its top executives six-figure salaries.