September 01, 2011

AT&T, T-Mobile, and "Leave It to Beaver"

Between 1957 and 1963 on U.S. television, the iconically family-friendly comedy series Leave It to Beaver was immensely popular.

Arguably the most fascinating character on the show was a duplicitous jerk named Eddie Haskell, wonderfully portrayed by actor Ken Osmond.

I found myself thinking about good ol' Eddie today as I perused the various articles explaining how AT&T is pulling out all the stops -- likely to include new offers of resources divestitures and even perhaps dropping some T-Mobile subscribers, in a continuing hell-bent effort to assimilate all too willing T-Mobile, in the face of Department of Justice actions to try (at least ostensibly) block the merger itself.

AT&T doesn't like to lose. It has recreated much of the power of the old Bell System in recent years, reforming since its 1984 breakup despite endless promises and guarantees that nothing of that kind could possibly occur.

And AT&T doesn't just lie and mislead -- the historical record of their unfulfilled promises to regulators, communities, and legislators is clear enough on those points -- but it crucially knows when to back off a bit as well, smiling as if their new concessions were actually their plan all along.

Eddie Haskell knew that game well. He cared only about himself. To your face he'd smile and be the epitome of politeness. When your back was turned he'd hypocritically plot and badmouth you with equal aplomb. And in case he got caught, he always had a protective hand ready to play.

So now the talk is that Eddie -- I mean AT&T -- is ready to promise lower prices for a while, and perhaps even show some T-Mobile subscribers the door to slightly reduce the massive market power the merger would bring -- the technical term for the latter is "shedding" by the way. (Question: Is subscriber shedding more like shooing away flies? Or is it like picking off fleas and drowning them in alcohol?)

Either way, a probable dilemma is that many (perhaps most) T-Mobile customers aren't the company's subscribers because the prices are lower, but because they simply don't want any part of AT&T wireless services. As I've noted in past postings, I've twice before had my own cell service sucked back to AT&T from other companies as a result of previous mergers. It's like the film Groundhog Day, only without Bill Murray or snow.

There's much pondering about what would happen to T-Mobile if the merger ultimately falls through.

But you probably wouldn't have wanted your daughter to marry Eddie Haskell.

And if you're a T-Mobile subscriber, being forced into bed with AT&T would be much more akin to a nightmare than a situation comedy. Even without Eddie.


Posted by Lauren at September 1, 2011 10:36 PM | Permalink
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