Letter to the Editor

AT&T/T-Mobile merger could help promote rural economic opportunity

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

With our country in the midst of an economic slump as serious and persistent as most Americans can remember, government's top priority should be increasing private-sector economic activity and opportunities for employment.

In my view, local, state and federal government best support economic recovery when they allow businesses the freedom to organize their resources in ways that promote private capital investment -- which, in turn, leads to enhanced productivity and hiring of workers.

I developed this point of view by having been on both sides of the fence -- government and private business. After majoring in economics at UNL, I opened a storefront operation selling used CDs, and over the next 20 years, started and operated businesses in industries ranging from technology to transportation to lumber. Since 2008, when I became mayor of North Platte, I have focused my efforts on creating jobs and cutting government spending.

It is from this perspective that I advocate for AT&T and T-Mobile USA to go forward with the proposed merger. Permitting these companies to join forces would open the door to billions of dollars in additional capital investment to upgrade wireless network infrastructure across the country. It would also create tens of thousands of jobs, while bringing next-generation wireless broadband to underserved communities in rural regions of Nebraska and other states. This is the technology that makes high-speed Internet access possible from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Nearly one-third of rural households in America are without access to broadband communications, a key technology for the 21st century. Making it possible for more rural Americans to have broadband service and participate fully in the digital age would allow them to improve their lives through greater economic well-being and enhanced access to education and health care.

Businesses in communities without broadband are at a distinct disadvantage; gaining high-speed Internet access could be a real game-changer for them. It has the potential to connect them to new markets and customers around the world and enable them to offer on-line sales, support and service. Greater business access to the latest wireless broadband would also encourage job creation, investment and innovation.

The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA would result in near universal broadband coverage for America, including rural areas and small communities. With the approval of their merger, AT&T has committed to investing an additional $8 billion in wireless infrastructure to expand its 4th Generation network to over 97 percent of the U.S. population. Investments related to this expansion could create as many as 96,000 new jobs. This merger would be a key driver of jobs and business expansion. I believe it merits the federal government's approval. As a result, rural America and our nation's economy would see a much-needed boost.

-- Marc Kaschke is Mayor of North Platte

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