AT&T exec blasts FCC over T-Mobile call center closures

AT&T appears to still be smarting over its failed $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA, a deal that fell apart last December under intense government scrutiny. Now, some of those feelings are being aired via a blog post from AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs.

And the reason for the comments are tied directly to the news that T-Mobile plans to close seven call centers across the country, jobs that AT&T said it would have preserved had the deal gone through. On Thursday, T-Mobile said it plans to close seven call centers in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas and Colorado. About 1,900 people will lose their jobs.

It’s pretty rare to see this sort of language used in corporate America, especially directed toward a government agency. Here are the full remarks from Cicconi:

“Yesterday, T-Mobile made the sad announcement that it would be closing seven call centers, laying off thousands of workers, and that more layoff announcements may follow. Normally, we’d not comment on something like this. But I feel this is an exception for one big reason– only a few months ago AT&T promised to preserve these very same call centers and jobs if our merger was approved. We also predicted that if the merger failed, T-Mobile would be forced into major layoffs.

At that time, the current FCC not only rejected our pledges and predictions, they also questioned our credibility. The FCC argued that the merger would cost jobs, not preserve them, and that rejecting it would save jobs. In short, the FCC said they were right, we were wrong, and did so in an aggressive and adamant way.

Rarely are a regulatory agency’s predictive judgments proven so wrong so fast. But for the government’s decision, centers now being closed would be staying open, workers now facing layoffs would have job guarantees, and communities facing turmoil would have security. Only a few months later, the truth of who was right is sadly obvious.

So what’s the lesson here? For one thing, it’s a reminder of why “regulatory humility” should be more than a slogan. The FCC may consider itself an expert agency on telecom, but it is not omniscient. And when it ventures far afield from technical issues, and into judgments about employment or predictions about business decisions, it has often been wildly wrong. The other lesson is even more important, and should be sobering. It is a reminder that in government, as in life, decisions have consequences. One must approach them not as an exercise of power but instead of responsibility, because, as I learned in my years of public service, the price of a bad decision is too often paid by someone else.”

  • Markinea1442

    Wow, very well-stated response. Irrespective of my opinion of whether the merger should have gone through, I don’t understand why the FCC – which primarily exists to regulate who does what on different electromagnetic frequencies – would have any say in anything on the grounds of job loss/creation.

  • http://lianza.org/ Tom Lianza

    The tricky thing about public “I told you so’s” is that, assuming you’re not always right, you’ve now given everyone else carte blanche to ridicule you for your own mistakes.

    The blogosphere’s response should be… interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yourboywill Will Hieronymus

    It’s not like Cicconi gives one damn about any of these workers, their communities, or the economy. His motives for merging AT&T and T-Mobile are purely motivated by money and the opportunity for his company to make more of it.

    Get this self-righteous asshole out of my face!

  • http://twitter.com/gglockner Greg Glockner

    Pure corporate propaganda.  No one will ever know whether AT&T would have preserved jobs either.  In fact, one goal of a merger is to get “economies of scale” by eliminating redundancies – which translates to consolidation or more simply, closing facilities and eliminating jobs.  If AT&T didn’t, they wouldn’t be fulfilling their obligations to shareholders.

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    It’s pretty tricky to go on the offensive against a regulator, especially when you’re AT&T and have already been broken up once before.

    Completely setting aside any opinions on the matter itself, I have to say they executed well on this one. It’s a strong, persuasive argument but also one that’s reasoned and (whether it’s genuine or not) has a sense of personal passion to it.

    So, as a communications person in tech, I have to give them credit in that regard.

  • Wireless Exec

    AT&T execs continue to demonstrate their dillusion and incompetence. The executive team that supported the failed merger should be fired by the BOD.  The merger was not in the public interest and from the beginning was a dillusional strategy led by good old boys that did not seem to understand the mobile industry, FCC policy…..  Why the AT&T shareholders have not asked for the heads of the AT&T execs including the CEO is beyond me.  Many, many experienced wireless execs laughed when AT&T first announced their intent to merge and the break-up fee – and especially the silly positioning drafted by the same man that published this blog.  He should definitely be fired – if he led this strategy and told the AT&T BOD that he could deliver approval because AT&T promised to protect some US jobs…..what a joke!  Give us monolopoly position for all GSM technology and spectrum in the USA – because we need spectrum and we want to eliminate the competition.  I am very thankful that the FCC made the right decision.  I wonder whether Randall and his crew will ever pay for wasting all that shareholder money on a ill conceived merger strategy.

  • Toya Loyal – Tmobile SC

    LMFAO