No Transparency From FCC

Or the National Telecommunications & Information Administration

By Catherine Hensley
Updated: September 21, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently asked AT&T to provide more information regarding its economic models for future expansion. AT&T, the nation’s second largest phone service carrier, has been trying to acquire rival T-Mobile. Such a large merger of competitors could have significant effects on the industry, as well as consequences for consumers.

In late August, the FCC requested that AT&T submit additional information on its economic models. This followed AT&T’s accidental release of information the prior week, in which it was discovered that AT&T had outlined a rationale for not providing LTE (long-term evolution) for roughly 97% of the country. This information, which AT&T redacted, received a large amount of attention, as many critics questioned why the company is reluctant to build out for approximately $3.8 billion but willing to spend roughly ten times as much to acquire T-Mobile.

This situation has caused many to question the transparency of the FCC’s merger review process. It’s assumed that the FCC already had this leaked information; it’s the public who was not privy to it prior to the leak. AT&T claims the information request is nothing out of the ordinary. But it’s apparent through this series of events that the FCC’s merger review process goes to great lengths to protect companies’ confidential information — to the point of establishing an opaque, not readily tangible review process.

The question of why they covered up broadband data remains, and it’s an important one. The data could have exposed areas where people are unable to get broadband access, for example. The public’s interest is clearly served by having this information, and the FCC’s lack of transparency on this issue appears to serve the regulated industries instead.

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