The DOJ's Plan To 'Fix' The T-Mobile Merger Is Already A Hot Mess

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

Earlier this year the Bill Barr DOJ absolutely tripped over itself to approve T-Mobile's controversial $26 billion merger with Sprint, despite a mountain of evidence that the deal would erode competition, raise prices, lower wages, and result in thousands of layoffs. It was so grotesquely corrupt, the approval process even involved "antitrust" DOJ boss Makan Delrahim literally helping guide T-Mobile through the proposal process using his personal phone and text message accounts.

The DOJ's "fix" for the problematic deal also involved shoveling some spectrum from T-Mobile over to Dish Network, which (it was promised) would then spend the next seven years building a replacement fourth wireless carrier to help offset the competition lost by gobbling up Sprint.

As we noted at the time, the proposal was never likely to work. One, Dish has a long, long history of empty promises when it comes to wireless (just ask T-Mobile), hoovering up valuable spectrum, making ample promises, then failing to deliver. The proposal also requires an FCC and DOJ that are proud of being "hands off" (read: fecklessly obedient to industry giants), suddenly being forced to closely shepherd the deal to fruition. This despite the fact that FCC BFFs AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all incentivized to make sure this new fourth competitor never succeeds.

Not too surprisingly, none of this is going particularly well. T-Mobile has already started closing prepaid outlets and firing employees, something the US government and T-Mobile repeatedly promised wouldn't happen. The pandemic is also making it harder for Dish to secure financing and begin the deployment of its promised 5G network. Even some of the basic aspects of the deal (like offloading T-Mobile prepaid brand Boost Mobile to Dish) have been mysteriously stuck in neutral:

As part of the government's remedy in the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, Dish Network is supposed to buy Boost Mobile for $1.4 billion, but so far, that deal hasn’t closed. Analysts are asking: What’s up? And as usual when it comes to Dish and wireless, it’s complicated.

“We are unaware of why Dish has not closed the Boost deal,” wrote LightShed Partners analysts Walter Piecyk and Joe Galone in a blog post today. “It should have been done by June 1st. Something is up."

Dish and T-Mobile have been unable to agree to terms on a 600 MHz spectrum lease as required by the DOJ judgement on T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, and Dish hasn't yet been able to explain why the Boost transition hasn't happened. Again, keep in mind, T-Mobile is incentivized for Dish not to succeed, since they (like AT&T and Verizon) don't actually want a viable fourth competitor to emerge from this process. And, not surprisingly, analysts state that Dish and T-Mobile have been more combative than cooperative:

"Among the questions: How will disputes between Dish and T-Mobile be resolved? “It is clear from recent filings that the momentary kumbaya relationship between DISH and TMUS during the final phase of the merger review has left and there has been a return to the more combative relationship that marked the first phase of the merger review,” wrote New Street policy analyst Blair Levin."

Dish CEO Charlie Ergen is notoriously difficult to get along with. Now, as we've predicted, you've got the "hands off" DOJ and FCC tasked with nannying this deal through to completion, without any indication they have the motivation or competence to do so.

My assumption has always been that this entire merger "solution" has all been little more than elaborate theater.

Dish may simply want to hoard spectrum and then offload it down the road at a premium, dragging feckless regulators the entire way. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon lobbyists and policymakers are all incentivized to make sure this added competition never takes root. And the DOJ and FCC, little more than glorified rubber stamps to industry at this point, are keen to create the illusion of strong ethical leadership, when in reality they rubber stamped a shitty merger (again, ignoring all objective data). And the US press, so eager to stenograph hype pre-merger, will likely be far less involved in documenting the real cost of merger mania as this paper mache proposal slowly falls apart, employees are laid off, and US consumers inevitably face even higher prices for mobile data in the years to come.

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Filed Under: 5g, antitrust, charlie ergen, competition, doj, fcc, spectrum, wireless
Companies: boost mobile, dish, sprint, t-mobile

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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 12 Jun 2020 @ 6:36am

    It is a simple misunderstanding

    This kind of confusion is understandable. 'Fix' has multiple possible meanings.

    One meaning is to repair something or make it right. The WiFi has been fixed!

    Another meaning is to attach something rigidly. As in to 'fascinate' a large screen TV to the wall. In the original IBM PC XT, the original IBM documentation stubbornly used the term 'fixed disk' to refer to what everyone else knew as a hard disk.

    Another meaning of 'Fix' is to corrupt something as in: the race is 'fixed'. The 'fix' is in. This regulator or official has been 'fixed'. It is this third meaning of 'Fix' that may be meant here. After all, we are talking about Trump's DOJ. And we are talking about a merger that would concentrate power, reduce competition, raise prices, and harm consumers. What more would one want?

    I need to take my dog to the vet to be fixed, er . . . I mean repaired

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Jun 2020 @ 7:25am

      Re: It is a simple misunderstanding

      Both inciteful and funny. But I have one quibble.

      "After all, we are talking about Trump's DOJ."

      While Trump may be the current head of the Executive branch, under which the DoJ operates, it is in fact OUR DoJ. It's a small quibble, but giving in to the pretense that the Dumpster Fire in Chief has more power than he really has will not do the rest of us any good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 12 Jun 2020 @ 12:22pm

        Re: Re: It is a simple misunderstanding

        Very good comment.
        And when was the last time A school or parent, has shown/explained HOW our system is supposed to work?

        When was the last time a corp paid off the politicians to look the other way?

        90% of the laws in the USa are After an occurrence, that created the need for the law.
        Most of the laws for the people are set down and hardly changed in along time.
        The Laws for Corps SHOULD not be flexible.

        It was entertaining when corps asked to have personal rights.
        And I asked if we Could...I would have loved it.
        We could sue them for Dumping crap/polluting..
        For leaving he lights on past a certain time.
        Sue for being TO noisy..
        Sue them for not paying an Equal property tax.
        Sue them for having to many cars parked in front of their property.
        Sue them for many of the actions of their employees..
        We could raid their facilities at 6am, to see if we could find drugs on the premises..
        We could place a stop sign behind a bush and tag every person that doesnt see it, and STOP..
        WE could raid every car in the parking lot looking for drugs, and guns..(arnt employees considered family)(or are they visitors, and the corp is having a DAILY PARTY??)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2020 @ 7:33am

    Justice? You want to talk about Justice? BlackLivesFirst!


    America is UnJust. It is does not put Black Lives First (as required
    by the latest generation of Black Lives Matter Law). It's really UnJust. Greatly.
    The great injustice of the American system is that it leaves its potential
    unrealized while maintaining scarcity for billions of people. Chinese, too.
    T-Mobile sucks, that's for sure. BlackLivesFirst!

    US society is corrupted by the values that necessarily
    accompany piracy —racism, greed, competitiveness, brutality,
    sexism, callousness. The ruling class calls the backward,
    criminal aspects of culture into being and sets them into
    motion, The society is the rat-race, marked by an anti-social
    premium on individualism. There is a stark poverty for
    masses of people materially and culturally, a poverty in the
    quality of life. BlackLivesFirst!

    Challenge to inaction. We inherited a deadening ideology of
    coiifornnty and gradualism. Our first protests were law-abiding and
    peaceful. But !he treacherous nature of US power was revealed as we began
    to comprehend Hiroshima, napalm, slavery, lynching, capital punishment,
    rape, Indian reservations. We came to see that change is violently opposed
    every step of the way. We stood up and defied propriety, the state and the
    law, in street demonstrations and outrageous actions. BlackLivesFirst!

    Militant confrontation
    politics transformed us, we broke with a powerless past. We saw popular
    uprisings, armed revolution, people's war, and guerrilla combat around the
    world. We realized the power of armed self-defense, mass rebellion and
    revolutionary violence in the Black movement. As our own protest elicited
    teargas, prison and bullets, we recognized the need to fight and the terrible
    cost of not doing all we possibly can. BlackLivesFirst!

    We are the world! -zone/video_05558c30-1de1-552f-b46f-33305612bf69.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2020 @ 7:38am

      Re: Justice? You want to talk about Justice? BlackLivesFirst!


      Trump likes Niggers! We laugh about it all the time. He talks like a Nigger when he drinks,really. Well,not really,he doesn't drink. But he loves us Niggers! He laughs a lot when I call him a nigger and he calls me a nigger, that's for sure. When you're black, or president, you can say nigger! It's in BLM Law! Nigger Nigger Nigger. Try i! It's relaxing!

      NiggerLivesFirst! MakeNiggersGreatAgain!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        You're a Gazelle! (profile), 12 Jun 2020 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re: Justice? You want to talk about Justice? BlackLivesFirst

        Are these dueling spam bots?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 12 Jun 2020 @ 5:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Justice? You want to talk about Justice? BlackLivesF

          No, if they where spam-bots they would probably be more coherent in their simpleton ways.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2020 @ 8:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Apparently Hamilton's taken to paying for VPN services just to troll a website he claims has very limited traffic. Yeah, I don't even fucking know.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 12 Jun 2020 @ 10:13am

    Well, I'm on Sprint so it will be interesting to see how this goes. :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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