Democrat calls for public review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger agreement

Democrat calls for public review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger agreement
© Greg Nash

Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineCelebrating the LGBTQ contribution to progress in business The Memo: Trump's rage may backfire on impeachment Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about MORE (D-R.I.) is pushing for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to open its proposal approving the T-Mobile-Sprint merger to public input over concerns about the effect the deal will have on consumers.

“As I have noted before, the proposed transaction is presumptively illegal under decades of black letter law and the Justice Department’s merger enforcement guidelines,” Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, wrote in a letter to the FCC. 

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“Both the original transaction and proposed settlement agreement raise the threat of higher phone bills, less choice, fewer jobs, and worse wages for hardworking Americans,” he added. “The prospect of these harmful effects for working people demands a thorough and transparent review.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Wednesday that he had circulated a formal draft order that would approve the deal under conditions laid out by the Department of Justice, namely the selling off of assets to the satellite TV provider Dish so that it can build a fourth wireless competitor.

Though the proposal was circulated Wednesday, the three-member GOP majority at the FCC has already said it will support it. Still, the FCC won’t have final say on the deal; 16 state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the merger.

An FCC spokesperson dismissed the calls for more time to subject the agreement to public scrutiny.

“This transaction has been pending in front of the Commission for more than a year, and there have been multiple public comment cycles,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Moreover, the commitments offered by T-Mobile and Sprint to the Commission have been public since May, and many parties have submitted comments about them. The time has come for Commissioners to vote and for this proceeding to be brought to a close.”

Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also called for time for the public to comment on the agreement.

“I’m surprised the FCC is ignoring past precedent and practice by failing to seek public input,” Starts said in a statement on Wednesday. “Sprint/T-Mobile will alter the future of wireless service in this country and will impact everyone with a cell phone. I will review the 273-page item carefully. Given its size and scope, and bipartisan litigation pending by State AGs, we shouldn’t rush our ruling without public comment.”