FCC takes step toward approving T-Mobile-Sprint merger

FCC takes step toward approving T-Mobile-Sprint merger
© Greg Nash
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step toward approving the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint on Wednesday, circulating a proposal that would allow the companies to combine and sell off assets to Dish so that it can enter the wireless industry.
 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Wednesday that he was formally recommending that the deal be approved by his fellow commissioners.
 
“After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas," Pai said in a statement.
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"Moreover, with the conditions included in this draft Order, the merger will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market.”
 
The Department of Justice also approved the deal last month on the condition that it sell off Boost Mobile — Sprint's prepaid wireless brand — and other assets so that Dish could join the industry as a fourth competitor. Makan Delrahim, the head of the DOJ's antitrust division, applauded the FCC's move on Wednesday.

“We are now one step closer to strengthening competition for high-quality 5G networks that will benefit American consumers nationwide,” Delrahim said in a statement.
 
Still, the deal faces a court challenge from more than a dozen state attorneys general concerned about the effect it will have on competition.
 
Though the draft proposal is just now being circulated, Pai said months ago that he would support the merger, which also gained the backing of two more Republican commissioners, securing the majority necessary to get the agency's approval.
 
But the commission's Democrats have been more skeptical, raising concerns about how the merger would affect consumers in already heavily consolidated wireless industry.
 
“I believe we need more competition, not less," Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "I am not convinced that removing a competitor will lead to better outcomes for consumers. But what I am convinced of is that before the FCC votes on this new deal negotiated by Washington, the public should have the opportunity to weigh in and comment. Too much here has been done behind closed doors.”
 
Updated 1:50 p.m.