FCC Approved T-Mobile Sprint Merger Without Even Seeing The Full Details
from the ill-communication dept
Surprising nobody, the Ajit Pai FCC last week approved T-Mobile’s $26 billion merger with Sprint. The approval comes despite that fact that antitrust experts, consumer advocates, and a long list of others have pointed out the deal will reduce wireless sector competition by 25%, inevitably driving up costs and reducing the quality of service (40 years of US telecom history suggests as much). And while T-Mobile and Sprint insists the deal will create jobs, both union reps and Wall Street predict the deal could kill anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 jobs.
Granted last week’s vote of approval was really just a formality. The FCC’s majority commissioners had already made it clear they’d be signing off on the deal. Troubling but unsurprising is the repeated allegations that the Trump FCC majority signed off on the deals before seeing most of the actual details, something FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was quick to point out in a statement:
“…the process that got us here is equally troubling. Three of my colleagues agreed to this transaction months ago without having any legal, engineering, or economic analysis from the agency before us. Consumers deserve better from the Washington authorities charged with reviewing this transaction.”
Yeah, who needs to see the actual details on a transaction that will dramatically alter the US wireless landscape before voting?
Former FCC lawyer Gigi Sohn shared a similar observation in a statement circulated to the media:
“Today?s decision is the culmination of one of the most irregular and opaque processes in FCC history. The FCC majority prejudged the merits of this merger two months before the Justice Department found the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint to be anticompetitive and required the creation of a new fourth competitor to pass legal muster. Despite this radical change in the merger, Chairman Pai has refused to put the new arrangement out for public comment.”
No willingness to look at hard data, an active disdain for public input; where have we seen that before? Worth noting the DOJ has followed a similar tack, ignoring advice from its own staffers to sign off on the deal.
Both the DOJ and FCC continue to push a remedy for the problems the deal creates that few think will actually work. They’re hoping to have T-Mobile shovel off some additional spectrum and its prepaid wireless brand to Dish Network, who’ll then attempt to build a functional fourth competitor to replace Sprint over the next half decade. But Dish has a long, long history of spectrum squatting and empty promises when it comes to wireless (just ask T-Mobile). And this FCC has exactly zero credibility when it comes to holding telecom giants accountable for, well, anything.
To make that deal work, the government will have to helicopter mom the hell out of the deal; ensuring T-Mobile lives up to its obligations and Dish meets its goals. It will also have to hold AT&T and Verizon accountable when they inevitably try to scuttle the deal in a bid to prevent a fourth viable competitor from truly emerging, something that, even under optimal conditions, isn’t supposed to happen for years. Imagine thinking that’s a more sensible route than just blocking the same deal that’s already been blocked several times because it’s clearly harmful to workers, consumers, and the market?