CHAIRMAN DAVID N. CICILLINE (RI-01)
OPENING REMARKS AS DELIVERED
MARCH 12, 2019

Today’s hearing is an important opportunity to examine the state of competition in the wireless industry and the competitive effects of the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Over the past century, the telecommunications industry in the United States has demonstrated the harms that result from monopoly power.

By 1940, AT&T’s dominance was so entrenched that it was widely considered to be a lawful monopoly. Over the next forty years, it grew to become the largest corporation in the world, controlling more than 80% of the market. It earned more than $53 billion in annual revenue and was the second largest employer in the United States, behind only the federal government.  

But in 1982, the Justice Department successfully concluded its landmark anti-monopoly case against AT&T for blocking competition in the telephone service and equipment market. As a result, the Bell System was broken into separate telephone companies, while AT&T’s long-distance services was structurally separated from its device manufacturing services.

The importance of the breakup of the Bell System cannot be overstated. It facilitated an explosion of competition in long-distance markets, significantly lowered prices for consumers, improved products and services, and spurred the creation of new jobs.