* Says deal would eliminate low-price competitor
* Kohl: deal should be evaluated nationwide, not by region
* Three House members also express concern
(Adds background of lawmakers who support deal)
WASHINGTON, July 20 Senator Herb Kohl, chairman
of the U.S. Senate's antitrust subcommittee, urged the federal
government to block AT&T's (T.N) $39 billion plan to buy
T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE).
In a letter to the Justice Department and Federal
Communications Commission, Kohl said that the deal "would
likely cause substantial harm to competition and consumers,
would be contrary to antitrust law and not in the public
interest, and therefore should be blocked by your agencies."
Separately, three other lawmakers, Representatives Edward
Markey, John Conyers and Anna Eshoo, also expressed concern
about the deal on Wednesday, saying in a letter that they were
worried about growing concentration in the wireless market.
In June, 76 lawmakers sent a letter to the Justice
Department and FCC urging approval of the deal, citing AT&T's
promises to improve access to poor and rural Americans.
The lawmakers have no direct role in reviewing the merger
that was proposed in March, but Congress, through oversight of
the regulators and by holding hearings on such deals, can
influence the climate of public opinion.
Kohl's letter said the transaction would eliminate
low-price competitor T-Mobile from the market.
If approved, the deal would vault No. 2 U.S. mobile service
AT&T well ahead of current market leader Verizon Wireless and
put nearly 80 percent of the wireless market in the hands of
just two companies. Third placed Sprint Nextel (S.N) has urged
U.S. regulators to reject the deal.
Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications
(VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L).
In his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski, Kohl said AT&T and T-Mobile are
head-to-head competitors and the deal would leave just three
nationwide wireless carriers.
Kohl argued that the market should be evaluated on a
national basis, rather than by local markets as antitrust
regulators often do in telecommunications deals.
Kohl also argued that there were no effective remedies that
the companies could offer regulators that would allow them to
fix the deal, saying that any proposed fix would "involve
extensive regulatory supervision and interference with the
complex on-going business operations of AT&T."
Kohl is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust
subcommittee, which oversees the Justice Department's antitrust
AT&T said that it continued to believe the deal would be
"We respect Senator Kohl," said an AT&T spokesman in an
emailed statement. "However, we feel his view is inconsistent
with antitrust law, is shared by few others, and ignores the
many positive benefits and numerous supporters of the
The three representatives said in their letter that approval
of the deal would be a backward step from nearly two decades of
promoting competition by accepting a duopoly in the wireless
"Such industry consolidation could reduce competition and
increase consumer costs at a time our country can least afford
it," they said in their letter to Holder and Genachowski.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tim