AT&T and T-Mobile - Reflections and Opinions

Well, it's been one week since REC Networks was mentioned in tech, telecom and business blogs around the world regarding the Sprint "Man in a dress" ad that we spoke out about. Honestly, I was never expecting the story to go that viral.

During the days that followed, I was criticized as being "too oversensitive" on this issue, even by some in the gay and lesbian community. To my critics, like I said, I did not see the ad as intentional transphobia, perhaps an old school ad man who thinks the man-in-a-dress concept still puts shock in men that the ad would be effective. The issues I had were strictly the timing of this ad and the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation as well as legislation in other states to provide more equal rights to people without regard to their gender identity.

At the same time, I have received messages of thanks from trans rights and women's rights advocacy groups for my actions.

As I mentioned in my previous statement, this was a major wake-up call to the non-profits who are also fighting this effort. While the non-profits should have done a much better job in screening these ads before putting their stamp of approval on it, the ad copy was the ultimate responsibility of Sprint.

As I have said in the past, REC is not a GLBT advocacy entity even though I am personally involved in advocacy to support transsexuals and intersex people who have a medical need for civil rights. So with that out of the way, let's get into the reason why I (and REC Networks) opposes the AT&T purchase of T-Mobile.

Where it comes to advocacy and taking positions, we see things from a more technical angle than from an administrative angle. There are many groups that are much more qualified to speak on that angle.

What AT&T and T-Mobile have in common is that they both operate on a GSM (Global System for Mobile) system. Other carriers such as Sprint, Verizon, Leap Wireless/Cricket, etc. operate on a CDMA (code division multiple access) system. I have used Cricket handsets on Verizon and vice versa.

I am a firm believer in handset portability. I feel that a customer should be permitted to take their service from one carrier to another and not be required to change their equipment. While "dual-band" GSM/CDMA equipment exists, those with GSM only handsets will have no place to go. This is because AT&T and T-Mobile are the only two GSM providers operating in America. As a result, many customers who wish to break away from the combined company (AT&T/T-Mobile) will be forced to purchase a new handset, have to move their lists, their apps, etc. to the new phone. In addition, they will be required to borne an expense for the new equipment.

A minimum of two licensees has always been a part of the law. When the cellular telephone service was first created back in the 1980s, two licenses were given away for each market. One license belonged to the "wireline" provider, a subsidiary of the primary incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) in the territory. The other license was made available to a "non-wireline" company thus allowing new entrants into the industry while allowing the Bells to keep a stronghold on half of the AMPS cellular spectrum. As new spectrum opened up and there was a much greater capacity, the wireline rule did not follow to Personal Communications Service (PCS) spectrum.

The GSM service is in most other nations of the world. Few nations outside the USA and Canada (such as Japan) use CDMA. This will create only one cellphone provider available in the USA for foreign visitors who are roaming or who otherwise get a SIM to use a phone in America.

While REC opposes the purchase and transfer of licenses, we do feel that the approval of the sale should be contingent on the combined company relinquishing redundant spectrum to the FCC to permit it to be auctioned off for a competing GSM provider.

The lack of choice within an operating platform or radio service will hurt consumers in the short term and in the long run. This is exactly why we also opposed the Sirius/XM merger.

REC joins with our allies at Media Access Project, Center for Media Justice, New America Foundation and others in opposing the sale of T-Mobile to AT&T. REC urges you to contact congress and tell them this sale will eliminate a customer's freedom of choice.