What’s more American than apple pie? Why, an apple pie that’s been baked overseas of course! With Japan’s Softbank poised to acquire a majority stake in Sprint soon much of America’s wireless market will be subject to foreign control, with only one of the country’s top four wireless carriers with a headquarters on this continent.
The dominance of foreign ownership in the American telecommunications market is a microcosm of the entire American market, and it’s clearly a trend that has Washington concerned, evidenced by the government’s hard stand against suspect Chinese telecommunications companies ZTE and Huawei.
This disappearance of the ingredients to the good old American pie means that a nation that once prided itself on things made here at home has been subject to a slow paradigm shift; creating a modern market where foreign concerns are not only present, they’re in control. But truthfully, in this global economy is the dream of a homemade American pie an antiquated vision of a bygone era? Is foreign telecommunications investment something to be worried about?
I’ll say at the outset I’m not even sure if the pressure to ‘Buy American’ still exists, as the influx of foreign interests has been happening for decades. There was a time when I clearly remember my parents and their friends expressing concerns over products that weren’t American made, now it seems to me that there’s almost something disparaging about buying a home-grown product.
That aside, looking at the top four American wireless carriers—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile—it seems to be quite the collection of good old fashioned all-American businesses. The reality, however, is that following the approval of the Sprint acquisition, only one of these companies will be American owned, AT&T.
While Verizon Wireless is co-owned, 55 percent by Verizon and 45 percent by British telecom Vodafone, T-Mobile is owned out right by Germany’s Deustche Telekom, and Japan’s Softbank will own a 70 percent share in Sprint, leaving only AT&T (sigh) as the only real all-American choice.
Briefly, this might actually be a huge marketing opportunity for AT&T should the Sprint deal go through, rebranding itself as the Ma Bell we all know and love: An American company for the American people! I think if AT&T should choose to pursue this, we’d really see if anyone cares about buying American anymore.
But in the end, is there really anything to worry about? The government seems to think so, having recently played the national security card regarding Chinese telecom hardware manufacturers ZTE and Huawei, but as it stands, such responses seem little more than fear-mongering and paranoia. Sure fifty-years ago America was firmly red, white, and blue, but the global market has changed things. Just imagine the widespread chaos in the American market if other countries started to treat our investment in other countries the way we treat their investment in ours?
In the end, given the fact that foreign concerns have been present in the American market for decades and the fact that most good old American companies get everything manufactured overseas anyways, its been quite some time since our American pie was baked here anyways.