AT&T said the suit caught it off guard.
"We are surprised and disappointed by today’s action, particularly since we have met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated," said Wayne Watts, AT&T’s senior executive vice president and general counsel, in a statement. "We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed. The DOJ has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive affects and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court."
The surprise is that this is a surprise. I don’t know how anyone could look at this deal without special interest glasses on and not assume it would not be allowed. Going from 4 to 3 in a deal that would effectively neuter the third is not a good deal for consumers. Especially since AT&T claims the deal is needed because it gives it access to spectrum, which is blowing smoke up you know where. (AT&T, for the record, is already the nation’s largest holder of spectrum.)
To be fair to AT&T, there might be a good reason they were surprised. This is a company full of Texas-sized BSDs that have gotten their way on every deal they have attempted dating back to 1996 when SBC Communications began reassembling the old Ma Bell. I have been a consumer in a number of those deals, and have yet to feel the benefit. Their customer service stinks, their rates continue to go up, and the choices continue to decrease. But all those deals got done. So why shouldn’t they think they can just bully and muscle and bribe their way to getting this deal done as well? And I fear at the end of the day they might just succeed. Don’t be surprised.