Concern over mergers and acquisitions, particularly after the recent economic downturn, has been mounting. From Comcast’s acquisition of NBC-Universal and more, business consolidation around media and communications is taking place at a rapid rate. While considered a positive financial move for the purchasing company, the actions can have reverberating effects across the economy which may not necessarily be considered supportive especially for African-Americans. The recent move by wireless giant AT&T to buy T-Mobile last week is the latest in a series of expansion of business behemoths. Yet the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP has just released a statement actually supporting the acquisition. The NAACP views AT&T’s announced acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom as potentially benefiting communities, consumers and workers alike.
The organization states, “Since the inception of the NAACP’s Economic Reciprocity Initiative (ERI), where major industries are graded, AT&T has been among the highest ranked in the telecommunications industry for its commitment to diversity in terms of procurement, philanthropy, promotion and hiring at the local, state and national level. Other industry authorities such as Diversity Magazine, Black Enterprises, and Fortune Magazine have also given the company impressive marks. We also recognize that T-Mobile has consistently not done as well in our rating process. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, we are cautiously optimistic that AT&T’s proven record and proposed commitment will truly benefit the acquired company’s consumers, minority vendors and workers.” The NAACP continues, “We note that AT&T is the only major U.S. wireless company with a union workforce, offering leading wages, benefits, training and professional development for its employees. As such, AT&T has received support for the acquisition from both the Communication Workers of America and the AFL-CIO. Organized labor has long been a strong ally of the NAACP, so we share the concerns and aspirations of our unionized members and coalition partners employed by AT&T who support this acquisition. Based on AT&T’s commitment to expand its high speed wireless technology to 294 million Americans or 95% of the U.S. population, including rural and smaller communities, this acquisition has the tremendous potential of dramatically reducing the economic and technological barriers that exist in under-served rural and low-income urban areas.”
But not all share the NAACP’s view. In fact, many have pointed to past support to the telecom industry by Black organizations and even the Black Caucus’ alleged financial contributions from precisely the same industry. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, speaking on a panel at the CTIA wireless association’s annual conference, said the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile would stifle innovation in the industry. Art Brodsky, Communications Specialist for Public Knowledge a public interest advocacy organization says, “This merger should not be allowed to go through. It will raise prices for consumers by limiting choices of calling plans and equipment. Combining the number two and number four national wireless carriers is plainly anticompetitive, and we believe the government should now allow the merger to go through.”
In addition, Delly Tamer CEO of the ecommerce wireless retailer Let’s Talk says, “While increased broadband coverage is a plus to the wireless industry as a whole, we have to ask at what cost and is it worth it. For 39 billion dollars, AT&T should be able to build out its own 7G network throughout our nation! T-Mobile’s position in the market has historically been to offer innovative and unconstrained cell phones and services at competitive prices. If this deal gets approved, consumers will likely see fewer device choices.”
While the heads of lobbying groups for the merger have already stated that they feel quite confident in their goals, the next several weeks should include even more dialogue on this business development.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots based civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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