A hectic week in the T-Mobile-Sprint merger review

It has been a hectic week for the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. Last Monday, in a bombshell, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Carr and O’Rielly expressed their support of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger after the companies agreed to modest new conditions. The Commissioners signaled their support before inviting comment from interested parties and the public.

CWA and public interest and rural organizations -- including Public Knowledge, Free Press, Consumer Reports, Rural Wireless Association, NTCA -- and members of Congress, including Chair of the House antitrust subcommittee Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN), Blumenthal (D-CN), Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA), and Booker (D-NJ) expressed their disappointment with Chairman Pai’s announcement.

The Department of Justice, which is also reviewing the merger, did not participate in the FCC announcement. This was an unusual move that hinted at disagreements between Chairman Pai and Makan Delrahim, the DOJ’s antitrust division chief. By Monday afternoon last week, there were reports that the DOJ was leaning against the merger as the proposed remedies did not resolve competition concerns. On Wednesday, it became public that the DOJ staff recommended blocking the merger.  

All eyes are on Delrahim’s final decision, while 16 states Attorneys General and the District of Columbia gear up potentially to block the merger independent of the DOJ’s decision. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission is reviewing the merger, as the California Public Advocates Office and CWA oppose its approval.

Leading observers -- including Gigi Sohn, Karl Bode of The Verge, Matt Wood of Free Press, New Yorker economics columnist John Cassidy, Los Angeles Times columnist Jon Healey, and Telecom analyst Craig Moffett -- have argued that the announced commitments are insufficient and unverifiable; the proposed merger remains anticompetitive and harmful; and that the Department of Justice and state reviewers should block the merger.

Links:

T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Wins Approval of F.C.C. Chairman (New York Times, May 20, 2019)

BREAKING: Two FCC commissioners voice support for Sprint/T-Mobile merger (Kansas City Business Journal, May 20, 2019)

@MikeoFCC’s Twitter post (Twitter, May 20, 2019)

DOJ Leans Against Approving T-Mobile’s Takeover of Sprint (Bloomberg, May 20, 2019)

Sprint, T-Mobile Fall on Report That DOJ Staff Opposes Deal (Bloomberg, May 22, 2019)

States may sue to block T-Mobile/Sprint merger (Mar. 28, 2019)

California’s Public Advocates Office argues strongly against T-Mobile-Sprint merger (FierceWireless, Jan 24, 2019)

Udall And Five Leading Senators Call On FCC, DOJ To Reject T-Mobile-Sprint Merger (Los Alamos Daily Post, May 27, 2019)

Reply brief of Communications Workers of America District 9 (CWA. May 10, 2019)