Telecommunications companies such as AT&T will now have to put shareholder proposals on Net Neutrality up for a vote at company annual meetings. REUTERS

A general counsel at AT&T said the company will fight an antitrust lawsuit suit the Department of Justice filed on Wednesday.

Wayne Watts, who serves as both senior executive vice president and general counsel for AT&T, said the lawsuit from the Justice Department has surprised and disappointed him, especially in light of the fact that the government agency gave no indication that it was planning to take such actions.

Watts said representatives from AT&T have met with the Justice Department regarding the company's $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile.

We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed, Watts said in a statement. The [Department of Justice] has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive effects and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court.

The Justice Department on Wednesday said it filed the antitrust because it wants to ensure there is competition and that every American continues to get high quality, competitively priced mobile wireless products and services.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole spoke at an AT&T/T-Mobile press conference where he said the department believes a merger between the two cellular phone giants would result in tens of millions of customers facing higher prices, fewer choices, and lower quality products for such services.

Consumers across the country, including those in rural areas and those with lower incomes, have benefitted from competition among the nation's wireless carriers, particularly the four remaining national carriers, Cole said. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that everyone can continue to reap the benefits of that competition.

But AT&T begs to differ.

Watts said the merger will not only improve wireless service for millions of Americans, but allow for the expansion of the 4G LTE mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, thus ensuring that 97 percent of the population can avail of this network.

Watts said these benefits will result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.

We remain confident that this merger is in the best interest of consumers and our country, and the facts will prevail in court, he added.

The Federal Communications Commission is currently on the 88th day of a review that is to take 180 days, according to its Web site. The agency can also stop and restart its informal 180-day clock, and actually did so between July 20 and Aug. 26 as it was waiting for additional data from AT&T.