The T-Mobile/Sprint merger is one step closer to becoming a reality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has formally voted to approve the merger, just a few months after the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave its approval.
The news isn’t all that surprising. In May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he would vote for the merger as long as the two companies committed to a fast rollout of 5G tech. Other Republican commissioners also signaled support for the merger. The two Democratic commissioners on the FCC have voiced disapproval for the merger, with one commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, penning an op-ed about it in the Atlantic earlier today.
“A condensed pharmaceutical industry has led to a handful of drug companies raising the prices of lifesaving medications, taking advantage of those struggling with illness,” said Rosenworcel in the article. “There’s no reason to think the mobile phone industry will be different. Shrinking the number of national providers from four to three will hurt consumers, harm competition, and eliminate thousands of jobs.”
The FCC and the DOJ are the two agencies that need to approve such a deal before it can go through, but the two companies still face other challenges. Notably, a coalition of state’s attorneys are attempting to block the deal through a lawsuit that spans multiple states, and representatives from both T-Mobile and Sprint have said that the merger won’t close until that lawsuit is resolved.
Recently, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood left the state coalition seeking to block the merger. Still, 17 states remain in the coalition.
Other groups have voiced concern too. Consumer Reports, the Communications Workers of America union, and the Rural Wireless Association all filed a motion on October 11 asking the FCC to pause its review, arguing that a full investigation into Sprint improperly accepting subsidy payments was required. Given the formal vote, this was not a major concern for the FCC.
We’ll have to wait and see just how long it takes before the merger is finalized, but considering the fact that T-Mobile and Sprint have jumped one more major hurdle, it may not be all that long.
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