Can AT&T buy T-Mobile? Five key factors.

The proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile presents the Obama administration with a major anti-trust dilemma. Federal regulators will consider several factors to determine whether to allow the two telecom competitors to merge:

The public interest

Seth Perlman and Roberto Pfeil / AP / File
This photo combination shows logos for AT&T Inc. (l.) and Deutsche Telekom AG (r.). AT&T announced Sunday that it will buy T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom – in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $39 billion – to become the largest cellphone company in the US.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice – the two major federal agencies that will examine the proposed $39 billion merger – must decide if the combination is in the public interest. That is, they will have to weigh competition against access: whether it’s better to have more competition in a highly concentrated industry or expanded broadband technology in rural and smaller communities, as AT&T argues.

“I think the Department of Justice is going to give this merger a very hard review,” says Sean Griffith, a professor of business law at Fordham Law School in New York. “The level of scrutiny will be substantial.”

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