AT&T Merger Will Affect Students, But the Feds Fight Back


One of the things that astounds me as a college professor is the idea that information may be taken away.† I donít understand the reasons for this.† Often they are cited as economic, and I still donít understand.† I donít understand it when teacherís salaries are cut, or when teachers themselves are cut.† I donít understand it when library funding is cut, or when librarians are.† I just donít.† I get budgets and governments and how they make bad decisions based solely on money, but that is as far as I get.

So, knowing this, and knowing that many of my students are working part and full time as well as going to school, I try to have everything electronic so they have access on a round-the-clock basis.† Everything is available at their fingertips.† This generation doesnít know any differently.

This presupposes that my students have access to a device that can get them to my website.† For many, libraries and on-campus computer centers work well, and many here in the Silicon Valley have PCs at home.† For the less well-off students, smartphones are the cheapest alternative, or an iPad.† Usually, the phone is better, as there is more communication bang for the buck.† This works for me as a professor, and I accommodate this phenomenon willingly.† Information is information and if the student can only economically step in one direction, then I can meet him or her halfway.

Culturally, this leads to the easy supposition that if the smartphone is the way to go for the lower income student, this would also be true for other members of their communities.† Indeed, we have some evidence of this.

My students, as are many others, are bright, engaged and have an interest in what is going on around them and in the world.† They use social networks for local information, and in a study done through ASUís Journalism and Communications department, more than two-thirds said they visit news websites regularly through their smart phones. Sites that do not have mobile viewing apps turn them off, and these users are not likely to return to them even on a different machine.† The bottom line here is that they want to be informed, and smart phones are the most inexpensive way to go.

But now, AT&T, the notoriously iffy service that partnered with Apple, (and prevented me from getting an iPhone for a couple of years because I didnít want their service) has entered into conversation with T-Mobile about a merger.

Okay, I don’t have an issue with Big Business doing what it is that Big Business has to do.† This is America.† I don’t always agree with them or their ways of doing things because I think it hurts the little guy, or in this case, the student, and denies still more access to information.† Then I get all atwitter.

So this will take one more option off the table for all of us, but it will especially affect students who are struggling financially.† I did a small informal poll in a couple of my classes to see who used what service. (I told them why i was asking).† 68% of my students who work full time use T-Mobile, and the reason why?† It is less expensive by sometimes $50 a month.† Those who used AT&T either worked for Apple, or had someone close to them who work for Apple. (I do live in the Silicon Valley).† Those who used Verizon loved the service and their phones.† Same with Sprint-Nextel.

The lower prices will no longer be an option and there will be only two choices for service, AT&T and Verizon.† When this type of non-competition happens, the service also goes down, and options are few.† This is especially bad for lower income populations and students form those populations.† This is not a good economy, tuition is rising, and when someone needs to be let go, the student is usually first.

Wednesday, the Federal Justice Department sued to block the merger.

James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general, cited† their reasons as “tens of millions of consumers all across the United States will face higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for their mobile wireless services.Ē

The DOJ (Department of Justice) has a broad authority to sue in these cases, especially when they think that a monopoly might occur.† AT&T plans to fight this, and it looks like a lengthy legal battle with the outcome less than certain for AT&T.† The DOJ has basically shrugged their shoulders at AT&T and told them to go ahead and fight.

Fine.† Let the lawyers slug it out.† For now, I am glad that my students do not have one more thing on their plates that prevent them from getting information when and where they need it.

And for once, the Feds have our backs.


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Photo from seanaes via flickr creative commons


Devon M.
Devon M.7 years ago

Four Words: Pay As You Go. On Virgin Mobile you can get unlimited web, data, messaging and minutes for $55 a month and they use the AT&T network. Unlimited web, data, messaging and 300 minutes is $35 a month. Of course, they don't give you a free phone, you have to buy it and it has to be a VM phone but they sell at a decent price on places like eBay.

This isn't the only way to save, either. I'm not for monopolies but I think this argument against the merger isn't as solid as it would have been with more research. I also can't help but wonder how I ever managed to go to college without all of the electronics... oh, wait, it was called a manual typewriter, a full time job and actually managing my life well enough to be at class and find study time.

Sorry, Mhaire, I see your point but am not sympathetic. Students and instructors need to be able to function sans smart phones.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons7 years ago

I don't have a smartphone its too expensive and if ATT gets a monopoly I will never be able to afford it.

Mark Marino
Mark Marino7 years ago

The breakup of AT&T documentary was on PBS over the weekend. Looks like we're going to have to go through all this drama, again. Excellent. Because there aren't really any other problems facing our country, right now.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S7 years ago

I have AT&T and work in Verizon customer service, so I say with full knowledge that their pricing structures are similar enough to be considered identical. T-mobile customer service has been very poor for a long time and that is why they are currently in the position to be absorbed by AT&T. I do not endorse or condone any cellular service, since I wouldn't consider any of them morally good or caring of the less fortunate (I do think highly of Google, as an example of what I consider morally good for a company). I am just stating the facts, that these are large corporations and they are clearly capitalistic, so it is what it is.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers7 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

I was pleasantly surprised when the Justice Dept. sided with consumers -- we have seen precious little of that lately.

Christopher C.
Chris C7 years ago

Giglet...I agree with you! I have been very happy with T-Mobile for over 4 years and am not looking forward to the merger. AT&T is just creating a monopoly with what they're doing to the cell phone industry and the rates are only going to go higher. My contract is up in less than 2 months and I started looking at costs with Verizon & AT&T. Verizon with a corporate discount through my company would still be in the upper 70's for a BlackBerry service...AT&T would be in the 80's.

I may do Virgin Mobile or Metro PCS rather than switch to AT&T!

Cheryl H.
Cheryl H7 years ago

What I understand is that it would cost AT&T one-tenth the cost of acquiring T-Mobile to just upgrade their network themselves. That was the excuse given at one time for the merger. AT&T and Verizon would have 80% of the cell phone customers if the merger happens. They would certainly be in cahoots to raise prices and continue to try and drive out any other competition. AT&T and Verizon have fought against net neutrality. They both donate to right-wing causes. With Citizens United, they can easily dump money into any campaign they want to buy the elections of those who would do their bidding. We must keep fighting against the merger.

ROLF P7 years ago

The biggest crime against the the people was the deregulation of the phone service we used to have one directory how many do we have now? And at the end of the day the Government can still shut it down NONE SENSE BOOOOO