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AT&T CEO: There's Too Many Damn Competitors!
Blames Higher Prices on Blocked T-Mobile Deal, Aliens, Wild Bears
by Karl Bode 10:58AM Thursday May 03 2012
One of AT&T's biggest problems in trying to get the T-Mobile deal approved was their hubris. In trying to ham-fistedly shove the bad deal down the public's throat, company executives repeatedly lied about the deal benefits (lower prices, more competition, better service) hoping that nobody would notice the hard data that repeatedly disproved such falsehoods. With the deal shelved, AT&T continues to show they've not learned their lesson -- company CEO Randall Stephenson blowing particularly dense smoke this week at the Wall Street Journal. After Stephenson trots out the spectrum capacity bogeyman, he goes on to insist that AT&T was forced to raise prices because the T-Mobile deal was blocked:
"Since that deal got killed, our data prices have gone up 30%," he said. He also blamed the blocked T-Mobile USA deal, in part, for AT&T's decision earlier this year to impose a limit on the amount of data available to a given customer. However, he said such a move probably would have been necessary regardless of the decision, and that he regretted not imposing the cap sooner.
So AT&T imposes some of the highest rates and lowest caps in the industry because the T-Mobile deal was blocked, but they would have charged those rates regardless of whether or not they acquired T-Mobile? Clear as mud. AT&T raises rates on all services at the drop of a hat -- so the idea that they need any outside encouragement on that front is rather hilarious. From there, Stephenson informs the Journal that the real problem with the wireless industry isn't a lack of competitors driving prices up and quality of service down -- it's too many competitors:
With or without a deal like the one his company unsuccessfully pursued, he said, competitors will be forced to drop out if they can't find enough wireless capacity to offer more modern data services to growing numbers of customers. "The more competitors you have, the less efficient the allocation of spectrum will be," he said. "It's got to change. I don't think the market's going to accommodate the number of competitors there are in the landscape."
It's rather amusing how painfully the Journal avoids countering Stephenson's claims with any -- oh -- facts and stuff (like perhaps how the spectrum crisis isn't real, or most "sky is falling" projections of unmanageable wireless growth rates are overblown and distorted for political and public relations effect). In the Journal's fact-optional ether AT&T -- who hoards spectrum in large part with the goal of eliminating potential competitors -- gets to play make believe without being challenged.

With LightSquared dead, Verizon a silent nodding duopoly partner, and T-Mobile and Sprint fighting for survival -- AT&T has worked tirelessly to ensure competitors don't exist. The fact their CEO is now insisting there's too many competitors is an example of the kind of hubris and detachment from reality that has quickly made AT&T one of the least liked companies in the country. You expect a little smoke and mirrors from any CEO trying to paint his preferred picture, but AT&T executives appear to live on another plane of reality altogether.