WASHINGTON — On Monday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced a joint hearing on the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint deal, tentatively scheduled for Wed., Feb. 13. The hearing will be co-chaired by Rep. Mike Doyle of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Rep. David Cicilline of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law.
As the chairmen said in the statement announcing the hearing, “A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would combine two of the four largest wireless carriers and the carriers with the largest numbers of low-income customers. As the Committees with oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, we must hold this hearing to examine the effects on important issues like jobs, costs to consumers, innovation and competition.”
Politico also reported Monday that a handful of representatives sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and DoJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim supporting the merger. That letter, led by Reps. Anna Eshoo and Billy Long, makes the implausible and entirely unsupported claim that this horizontal merger would “provide consumers with lower costs.” The letter argues that the deal should be approved in light of alleged competition for mobile broadband customers by cable and satellite companies.
The letter also claims that the merger would “preserve jobs,” even though research from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) concludes that the deal would lead to nearly 30,000 job losses across the United States.
On Tuesday morning, Free Press Action, together with the Center for Media Justice, Common Cause and CWA, will hold a briefing in the House of Representatives on how this merger would crush competition in the wireless market — with disastrous consequences for low-income communities and people of color who depend on T-Mobile, Sprint and their prepaid brands competing for customers, cutting prices and improving services for value-conscious wireless users.
Earlier this month, California’s Public Advocate’s Office agreed with that assessment, stating that the deal was not in the public interest since it lacks “specific, measurable, and verifiable … benefits and would cause irreparable damage to competition in the wireless market and the low-income consumer market.”
Free Press Action Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“It’s great that the new House majority is getting serious about the harms of runaway consolidation in the wireless industry and other communications and tech sectors. We look forward to a full hearing next month on the harms that T-Mobile’s takeover of Sprint would inflict on low-income communities, people of color and prepaid wireless users, all of whom depend on vigorous competition between T-Mobile and Sprint brands to keep prices affordable for the entire wireless market.
“Regrettably, a small handful of representatives rushed to judgment on this deal and fell prey to T-Mobile and Sprint spin, leaping ahead of this hearing to voice support for the merger. Representatives Eshoo, Long and the small group of lawmakers joining them all claim, falsely and recklessly, that this merger would lower prices, increase choice and preserve jobs.
“None of that is true, and none of that makes sense. Horizontal mergers destroy competition. They eliminate choice, they don’t increase it. This merger, like all such deals, is really about making the two companies’ top executives and shareholders richer. Nothing more. It would remove competition in the wireless market, harming those who can least afford to pay more for essential wireless services.
“T-Mobile’s own hired experts, economists and lobbyists have flat out admitted that the merger would likely raise prices. That’s right: T-Mobile itself is all but promising higher prices, all in the name of unspecified increases in speed that value-conscious wireless customers wouldn’t see, don’t need and all too often couldn’t afford.
“T-Mobile and Sprint compete against each other to lower prices and serve users who can’t afford the premium services offered by AT&T and Verizon. This competition helps eliminate barriers poor people and people of color often face when trying to get service. If two of the four remaining national cellphone carriers merge, people who depend most on affordable internet access will have no other options to turn to. That’s why this deal deserves a pink slip, not a magenta-tinged bill of health, from any member of Congress who really cares about their constituents.”