Former FCC Dem to advise T-Mobile, Sprint on merger

Former FCC Dem to advise T-Mobile, Sprint on merger
© Greg Nash

Mignon Clyburn, a former Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is advising T-Mobile and Sprint on their proposed $26 billion merger as the two companies seek regulatory approval from her former agency.

In a phone interview with The Hill, Clyburn said she sees the work as a continuation of her efforts in government to expand internet access to hard-to-reach and overlooked communities.

“I'm advising T-Mobile-Sprint as it seeks to accelerate the creation of an inclusive, nationwide 5G network on how to best to build a bridge across the digital divide that currently exists in our country,” she said. “Affordable broadband access for me is a critical priority, particularly for those Americans who are underserved or who currently have no viable options at this time.”

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Politico first reported the news on Monday.

Many Democrats have come out against the merger, which would reduce the number of major nationwide wireless carriers from four to three. Executives from both companies plan to testify next week before a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees after Democratic lawmakers had increasingly voiced concern about how the consolidation would affect consumers.

Clyburn will be doing the work through her new firm, MLC Strategies, and will not be registering as a lobbyist.

The move could be seen as a departure for Clyburn, whose father, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), is the third-highest ranking House Democrat. During her nine-year tenure at the FCC, she was considered a consumer advocate and voiced concerns about high-profile mergers such as the AT&T-Time Warner tie-up.

In 2017, she voted against an FCC report that found there was effective competition in the mobile wireless market, citing a downturn in investment from the industry in expanding service to rural areas.

And in the six months since she stepped down from the commission, she’s been awarded a fellowship at the Open Society Foundations and a seat on the board of directors at the Benton Foundation.

Clyburn said she believes those ideals can have an impact in her work on the mega-merger.

“I bring certain sensitivities, principles and passions that I believe are essential and are natural extensions of the private-public partnership that clearly exists between the FCC ... and the private sector when it comes to our universal service principles,” she said.