The war of words in the wake of AT&T's withdrawn application to buy T-Mobile USA continues to escalate this afternoon. As a government agency, we'd figured the FCC might take the high road by not responding to AT&T's rebuttal this morning — but it wasn't to be. The Commission's chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Joel Gurin, relayed a message via the FCC's official Twitter account:

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As a refresher, Jim Cicconi is AT&T's senior executive VP of external and legislative affairs, the man who penned fiercely-worded statements bashing the FCC's staff report both today and yesterday. There are numerous portions of AT&T's most recent rebuttal that Gurin could take issue with, but this snippet from Cicconi's conclusion could've been the tipping point:

We have summarized here only a portion of the infirmities we see in the FCC's report. We would encourage all observers to read the report itself. We believe that the utter absence of balance is clear, and demonstrates that the document lacks all credibility. The decision to issue such a report that has no legal status, without a vote of the Commission, and in a proceeding that has been withdrawn, was also without precedent, and underscores that this was intended more for advocacy and to impact public perceptions. And neither is a proper basis for action by a regulatory agency.

Logic suggests that AT&T is going to have a progressively more difficult time passing any sort of merger application through the FCC if it continues to rile the guys in Washington — and the fact that the FCC felt the need to blast the carrier on Twitter probably isn't a good sign, either.