A district court judge's decision upholding the Justice Department and FCC approval of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger drew immediate reaction from Washington.
Both the FCC and Justice had argued the deal would help speed the 5G rollout, with conditions that would ultimately create a new, facilities-based, competitor, helping justify the reduction of the Big Four--AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint--wireless carriers to the Big Three.
“I’m pleased with the district court’s decision," said FCC chair Ajit Pai. "The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will help close the digital divide and secure United States leadership in 5G. After the merger, T-Mobile has committed to bringing 5G to 97% of our nation’s population within three years and 99% of Americans within six years. Its 5G network will also reach deep into rural areas, with 85% of rural Americans covered within three years and 90% covered within six years. This transaction represents a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States, put critical mid-band spectrum to more productive use, and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans."
More than a dozen states had sued to block the deal, saying it would raise prices and reduce competition.
“This is good news for U.S. consumers who benefit from economies of scale and free markets picking winners and losers, not bureaucrats or politicians," said Jessica Melugin, associate director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Technology and Innovation. "This merger isn’t about taking the number of wireless providers from four to three, it’s about letting the third and fourth biggest players combine in order to be a third provider of 5G, alongside Verizon and AT&T.”
Not everyone was cheering.
"We are profoundly disappointed that the judge approved a merger that will harm communities of color and low-income communities across California," said Greenlining Institute Technology equity director Paul Goodman. "T-Mobile's tepid promises to offer low-cost services were contradicted by T-Mobile's own experts, and T-Mobile's commitments are too vague and full of loopholes to ensure that the merger is in the public interest. The Greenlining Institute will continue to fight the merger at the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that communities of color have access to affordable, high quality service."
“How many times will judges and antitrust enforcers be fooled by the empty promises these companies make to get these deals approved?" said Free Press VP of policy and general counsel Matt Wood. "Using an unhealthy mix of hubris, bad judgment, and petty politics, the FCC’s Republican majority and Donald Trump’s attorney general for antitrust decided to wave this deal through — reportedly ignoring the advice of staff at both agencies who had called to reject it. More than a dozen state AGs rightly stepped in to fill the void, making the obvious case that the competition between Sprint and T-Mobile benefits all wireless users and especially those who seek out lower-priced plans and greater value."