Washington, D.C.-based National Puerto Rican Coalition threw it support behind the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, asking the Federal Communications Commission in a letter Friday to approve the deal as it believes it will help to better meet the wireless needs of the Puerto Rican population on and off the island.
“For 34 years, NPRC’s mission has been strengthening the social and economic well-being of Puerto Ricans,” the organization said in its letter. “As such, NPRC urges the FCC to approve the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile to bring economic, health and societal benefits to our Puerto Ricans, in both the United States and in Puerto Rico.”
The NPRC’s mission is to systematically strengthen and enhance the social, political, and economic well being of Puerto Ricans throughout the U.S. mainland and on the island, said AT&T’s presence “in Puerto Rico has already brought significant social and economic benefits to the island, and the proposed merger will enable this company to continue to do so.”
The NPRC credited AT&T for providing jobs to more than 2,000 island residents between 2007 and 2009, and investing more than $150 million in broadband infrastructure.
“For Puerto Ricans, this has resulted in better healthcare options, increased economic opportunities and the ability to access critical news and government documents,” said the group, which on its website lists AT&T as one of its main sponsors.
On March 20, AT&T disclosed plans to acquire competitor T-Mobile USA for a cash and stock transaction worth $39 billion from its parent, Deutsche Telekom.
If consummated, the transaction would reduce the number of national wireless carriers to three. In Puerto Rico, the deal would represent the marriage of the number one and number three wireless carriers, the reduction of the number of players to four, and would turn AT&T into the undisputed local industry leader with some 1.4 million subscribers.
AT&T said with this transaction, it would address a number of network availability issues plaguing both carriers as a result of customer demand for more robust and faster services and equipment. Among other things, AT&T committed to significantly expanding the deployment of 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology to 95 percent of the U.S. population to reach an additional 46.5 million Americans beyond current plans – including rural communities and small towns. This would mean more pervasive and faster broadband access.
“By approving the proposed merger, the Commission will not only help residents in Puerto Rico, but also those throughout the United States, providing them with quick and affordable broadband access to improve their everyday lives.
FCC wants explanations
The NCPR submitted its letter to the FCC the same day the regulator asked AT&T to provide evidence of its statements to the effect that the merger would remedy an existing airwaves shortage problem, and would create thousands of jobs.
In a document posted on its website Friday, the FCC asked AT&T to provide “all plans, analyses and reports discussing the relative network spectrum capacity constraints of the company,” as well as “all plans, analyses, and reports discussing the creation or loss of jobs.”
The mega-merger needs to clear the FCC’s scrutiny as well as that of the U.S. Department of Justice. In Puerto Rico, portions of the deal — those impacting their role as participants in the Universal Service Fund — will need the approval from the Telecommunications Regulatory Board.
If the deal fails to go through, it may mean AT&T would be required to pay to Deutsche Telekom a fee of $3 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing a March 21 filing AT&T submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.