WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a draft order to green-light the T-Mobile/Sprint deal. In July, the Department of Justice’s antitrust division announced its approval. To win the DoJ’s approval, the two carriers agreed to sell off some assets to DISH Network, including prepaid subsidiaries like Boost Mobile, spectrum licenses and retail stores.
“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,” Pai wrote in a statement that offers no evidence to substantiate his claims.
If the merger goes forward, it would leave the United States with only three viable nationwide wireless-service providers even with the planned divestitures to DISH. The deal would crush competition, raise prices and eliminate thousands of jobs, according to union estimates.
The chairman has yet to publish the text of his order, though final approval could occur in the coming days or weeks.
Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner made the following statement:
“It appears Chairman Pai has finally gotten FCC staff to write a document supporting his predetermined conclusion that the T-Mobile/Sprint merger benefits wireless consumers. Normally the FCC chair would allow the agency’s experts in law and economics examine the record and prepare an analysis for the commissioners to review before deciding if the proposed merger was in the public interest.
“But Pai decided months ago that he would approve the deal, even though FCC staff were still conducting their review. We eagerly await the details of this draft order, which will remain outside of public view for some weeks, to see just how the FCC’s GOP commissioners justify jettisoning decades of precedent.
“Given the harmful impacts of this merger and the shady manner in which the FCC’s approval was reached behind closed doors, the public should have the opportunity to weigh in and comment before the full agency vote is final. Furthermore, Free Press and other merger opponents are actively examining the numerous procedural defects in the FCC’s ham-fisted effort to ram through this toxic deal.
“The good news is that attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia have joined a lawsuit to block the merger. Free Press looks forward to the state AGs trying their case in front of an impartial court. And we’ll continue to fight to stop this dangerous merger from going through.
“Despite Chairman Pai’s bogus claims, nothing about this deal would lower prices for customers or lead to faster 5G deployment. And the loss of competition would disproportionately harm low-income people and communities of color.
“Ultimately, this matter will be decided on the facts in court, and those facts inarguably demonstrate that this deal is unlawful.”