AT&T and alternate universes

Over the last few months I kept seeing online ads for something called "Quantum Jumping" and finally, in an idle moment, I got around to investigating what it's all about. What it's all about is simple: It is complete and utter nonsense.

Hyped by one Burt Goldman, Quantum Jumping is a heady mashup of metaphysics, misinterpreted and misunderstood physics, and marketing. It takes the multiverse theory, which speculates wildly (and, to date, untestably) that ours is only one of an infinite number of universes, and claims that, through "a powerful & time-tested combination of meditation and visualization," you can "jump" into "parallel dimensions" and gain "skills, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration from alternate versions of yourself." You've got to laugh at this silliness.

I bring this up because there's one tech company in the process of trying to convince us that an alternate universe actually exists and would be a good thing. I refer to AT&T, which contends that their proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile will create jobs and improve cellular service and competitiveness.

BACKGROUND: AT&T-T-Mobile merger widely panned

The job creation issue -- that nearly 100,000 new jobs would magically appear -- is one of the most indefensible assertions AT&T makes.

In fact, a recent study, "The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: A Recipe for Reducing Jobs for American Workers" by David Neumark, who's a professor of economics and director of the Center for Economics and Public Policy at the University of California at Irvine, concluded: "Since 2002, AT&T has eliminated over 107,000 jobs relative to the growth in employment that would have occurred from the acquisitions that occurred during that time period. This evidence is consistent with AT&T's past mergers generating job loss."

Rather surprisingly, AT&T's job creation claim is being backed up by the Communication Workers of America, the union that something like 56% of AT&T's workforce belongs to. This unlikely support is because the workers at T-Mobile, which has managed to largely keep unions out of its business, would be the ones to be "right-sized" or "rationalized" out of their jobs should the merger happen!

At this point you might be thinking that the alternate universe of AT&T couldn't get any weirder, but you'd be wrong. Somehow AT&T has managed to get support from -- and I am not making this up -- the Louisiana Ballooning Foundation and the Michigan Milk Producers Association.

Along for the ride with the above organizations are 17 state governors and 11 state attorneys general, which just goes to show how well spent AT&T's lobbying dollars have been (a total of $11.7 million in the first half of 2011).

Fighting the metaphysical pull of the AT&T-verse are seven state attorneys general, Sprint Nextel and Cellular South, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. The latter is opposed to the deal, not because of the jobs creation nonsense, but because of antitrust concerns (the deal would give AT&T 96 out of the largest 100 markets and a total market share of around 40%).

According to sources quoted in a Forbes article, the chances of AT&T successfully acquiring T-Mobile are between 30% and 40% and, should it succeed, it will probably be at the cost of 30% to 40% of their assets.

So, while there's a good chance AT&T won't succeed, don't assume that defeat is a sure thing and that we won't all be catapulted into the AT&T alternate universe. As crazy as its theories about jobs might be, it is a lot more real than Goldman's Quantum Jumping and a lot less amusing.

Gibbs stays in one place: Ventura, Calif. Send a message from your universe to

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This story, "AT&T and alternate universes" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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