T-Mobile Layoffs Called FCC's Fault

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James Cicconi knows whom T-Mobile workers should blame for their company's recently announced layoffs: the FCC.

Cicconi, who serves as AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, wrote a post for AT&T's Public Policy blog last week that again attacked the FCC for its role in shooting down the failed $39 billion merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. But this time, Cicconi said that the death of the proposed merger was directly responsible for T-Mobile's announcement this week that it planned on closing seven call centers and laying off 1900 workers.

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"Rarely are a regulatory agency's predictive judgments proven so wrong so fast," he said. "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."

The FCC last year released a report projecting that there would be significant layoffs if AT&T and T-Mobile merged, as AT&T would eliminate redundant positions. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also objected to the proposed merger's projected impact on competition in the wireless industry, as it would have left Verizon and AT&T with a projected 80% combined share of the wireless market in the United States, according to an analysis by Consumer Reports.

Cicconi said that he hoped the FCC would act with more "humility" in the future when deciding on whether to approve mergers since wrong decisions are "too often paid by someone else."

"The FCC may consider itself an expert agency on telecom, but it is not omniscient," he said. "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."

This week's broadside against the FCC marked the second time Cicconi publicly attacked the agency this week. On Tuesday, Cicconi criticized the FCC during the Free State Foundation's fourth annual Telecom Policy Conference and accused the agency of subjecting AT&T to "an arbitrary process" during the attempted merger. Cicconi also said that the FCC's authority needed to be re-examined in light of its recent decisions.

Cicconi first publicly attacked the FCC in AT&T's public policy blog late last year after Genachowski submitted a proposal for an administrative hearing on the merger that would have forced the two companies to defend their merger plans before an administrative law judge. Cicconi continued his war against the FCC in February when he responded to objections voiced by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to proposed changes in the FCC's authority to conduct spectrum auctions. Among other things, Hundt objected to proposals that would have barred the FCC from designating spectrum blocks for unlicensed use and would have restricted the commission's ability to bar individual companies from acquiring spectrum in auctions in the name of competitive balance.

Cicconi's criticisms of the FCC have been echoed by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who earlier this year accused the FCC of trying to "pick winners and losers rather than let the market work."

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This story, "T-Mobile Layoffs Called FCC's Fault" was originally published by Network World.

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