Reactions to Chairman Pai's Recommendation for Approval of T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced his support on May 20 for approval of T-Mobile’s $26.5-billion takeover of Sprint, following reported concessions made by the two carriers. Reactions:

Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): "T-Mobile has long been a competitive disruptor in the market, bringing down prices and spurring innovation. I don’t think going from four to three major carriers will be good for competition in the long term.”

House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI): "Chairman Pai’s statement is deeply concerning. Consolidation is a threat to progress and economic opportunity, not the driver of it. Actual competition in the wireless market is critical to building out the next generation of internet and wireless services. Empty promises will not make this transaction a good deal for American workers and consumers."

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Benton Senior Counselor, Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law Center: "This is not a surprise insofar as it has been the most likely scenario if the deal were to be approved. However, I was among those guessing that he likelihood of approval was about 50/50, so any agreement is something of a surprise. It is possible, but rather unlikely, that DOJ will still oppose the deal. However, that is not the end of it, as it is also quite possible that one or more states will challenge the transaction. While those obstacles remain, the odds of ultimate approval are now very high. I fear this means higher prices."

Gigi Sohn, Benton Senior Fellow and Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy: "The T-Mobile-Sprint merger is still anticompetitive and anti-consumer. The companies have made a handful of promises on 5G, rural buildout and in-home broadband that are speculative, not specific to the merger and completely unenforceable. Does anyone really believe that this FCC, which has asked nothing of the big mobile companies for over 2 years, will require the companies to abide by these commitments? Moreover, they are the type of behavioral conditions that Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim has said time and again are unenforceable and over-regulatory. The promise to spin off one of the companies 3 prepaid subsidiaries still does not resolve the problem that the evidence on the record demonstrates that prices for postpaid subscribers will also go up if this deal is consummated. The handful of unenforceable promises made by the merging companies does no more than put lipstick on a pig. This classic 4-3 horizontal merger is bad for consumers and competition and the DoJ and the FCC should block it."

Phillip Berenbroiock, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge: “Since the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint combination was announced more than a year ago, it has been clear that additional consolidation of the mobile broadband market would harm consumers and significantly reduce competition and innovation. The commitments announced today by T-Mobile/Sprint and Chairman Pai do nothing to resolve these harms. It is astonishing that a Commission with such a deregulatory bent would embrace such a regulatory approach, as a means of allowing a competition-destroying merger to go through. Even with the conditions announced today, the merger continues to be illegal under the antitrust laws and contrary to the public interest. The full Federal Communications Commission should reject Chairman Pai’s recommendation."

Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood: “The conditions proposed in yet another policy-by-press-release Pai statement would do nothing to alleviate this deal’s obvious harms, especially to low-income populations, communities of color and anyone seeking a more affordable price for essential wireless communications. Chairman Pai crows that the companies’ so-called deal commitments would help close the digital divide and spur 5G deployment. But these speculative conditions wouldn’t move the needle on either score. In fact, the merger would just make things worse, as Free Press research and the record before the FCC demonstrate...Despite this morning’s bad news, from an agency and a chairman who specialize in disastrous decisions, we hope that the Department of Justice and state attorneys general will block this massive and anti-competitive horizontal merger. If they won’t, then our antitrust laws are meaningless.”

Evan Greer, Fight for the Future deputy director: “Ajit Pai doesn’t even try to pretend that he works for the public. He seems to take smug pleasure in being a blatant telecom shill. No one is surprised by today’s announcement, but we will keep fighting to block this merger –– which simply put will lead to crappier, more expensive Internet for millions of people.”

Debbie Goldman, research director and telecom policy director for the Communications Workers of America: “These new commitments and conditions do nothing to address our concerns about the impact of this merger on T-Mobile and Sprint workers and consumers. The merger would mean the elimination of 30,000 U.S. jobs as the new T-Mobile shuts down duplicative retail stores and consolidates headquarters functions. Mobile has made no written, verifiable commitments to the FCC to protect jobs. While T-Mobile has tried to muddy the waters with vague loophole-ridden pledges to maintain jobs for current T-Mobile and Sprint employees, three-quarters of current employees selling the companies’ services work for authorized dealers and are not covered by the jobs pledge -- 88,000 workers in total. The companies’ rural promises are overstated and don’t hold up to scrutiny. T-Mobile and Sprint’s own filings with the FCC show that even five years after the merger, 40 million Americans -- mostly in rural communities -- would still not have access to the New T-Mobile’s high-speed 5G wireless network."

Associate Director of Competitive Enterprise Insitute's Center for Technology and Innovation Jessica Melugin: "CEI applauds FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and commissioner Brendan Carr for announcing their support for the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. While CEI has urged regulators to let the merger proceed without market-distorting conditions, like the requirement that Sprint divest itself of Boost Mobile, the FCC’s approval appears to be a relatively clean deal and could have been much, much worse."

Ken Cuccinelli, director of the Regulatory Action Center at the Freedomworks Foundation: "T-Mobile and Sprint have made significant commitments to advance 5G in the United States. This deal will give America an advantage in the race with China to build a 5G infrastructure and increase access to high-speed broadband that will benefit urban and rural communities alike, promote competition, and create jobs. We applaud Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC for taking steps to approve the merger."

Reactions to Chairman Pai's Recommendation for Approval of T-Mobile/Sprint Merger T-Mobile-Sprint Critics Pan Pai's 'Policy by Press Release' (Broadcasting&Cable) Chairman Pai Ignores the Public Interest to Recommend Approval of Harmful T-Mobile/Sprint Deal (Free Press) Telecom shill Ajit Pai shills for telecom (Fight for the Future) Gigi Sohn Statement Public Knowledge Criticizes Pai T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Proposal as Ineffective: FCC, DOJ Should Block Deal (Public Knowledge) Friends of T-Mobile-Sprint Praise Pai's Public Support (Multichannel News) Rep. Cicciline Slams Pai for T-Mobile-Sprint Decision (B&C) Democrats criticize FCC's green light on Sprint and T-Mobile merger (Washington Post)