AT&T Responds to Critics of T-Mobile Merger

Continues to tout long list of supporters, despite accusations

WASHINGTON—AT&T is going to the full-court press as it makes its case in favor of its proposed $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile. On Tuesday, for what was the third press conference it's held on the matter, the telecom giant trotted out its general counsel, D. Wayne Watts, to talk about the end of the Federal Communications Commission's comment period Monday. 

Watts, a big, burly Texan who has handled more than a half dozen mergers in the telecom business, exuded more of the confidence the company has shown all along that the merger would clear regulatory hurdles at the FCC and Department of Justice. 

"I've not been surprised by anything that has happened. Nothing changes our view that when you look at the facts, this is a merger that should be approved," said Watts.

Still, recent news meant that not everything at the press conference could be so positive. Though he remained his jovial, unflappable self throughout, Watts launched into an unbidden defense of his company, which has come under fire over the support it has gotten for the merger from groups to which it has donated thousands of dollars. (Jarrett Barrios, the president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, one of those groups, resigned last week under pressure relating to his organization's backing for the deal and the money it received from AT&T.)  

"We contribute to organizations because we are a socially responsible company," Watts said. A spokeswoman said many of the organizations involved have received money from AT&T for more than a decade. And Watts named other groups and corporations, including several big technology companies, that he says haven't gotten money from AT&T. 

Sprint and other merger opponents also seem to have made an impression. Watts, who penned the latest of AT&T's responses to Sprint, took the time to address Sprint's latest filing, which accuses AT&T of sitting on 40 MHz of spectrum and goes after one of AT&T's key arguments in favor of the deal, saying AT&T doesn't need T-Mobile to solve its network issues.

"AT&T could increase its network capacity by more than 600 percent by 2015," Sprint argued in its filing.

Watts responded that the spectrum Sprint is referring to could not be used for two purposes and that using more micro-cells would not add capacity.

Asked about conditions that regulators might impose as a condition of approving the deal, Watts would only say, "I'm not going to predict any."