WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a group of at least 10 state attorneys general is preparing to file an antitrust suit today to stop the T-Mobile/Sprint merger. New York’s attorney general is leading the lawsuit, according to the report.
The states’ move comes after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his decision to support the acquisition, citing merger commitments that Free Press and others have dismissed as entirely inadequate to offset this merger’s many harms. A lawsuit by the states could prevent the merger, even if the federal government moves to approve it.
The Justice Department has yet to act, despite reports that career attorneys recommended blocking the deal. Rumors have been swirling in the press about the Justice Department’s plans amid speculation that the DoJ could approve the deal after the companies make unspecified divestitures of assets beyond what the FCC has already proposed.
If approved, even with those commitments and divestitures, the deal would leave the United States with only three viable nationwide wireless-service providers. This would crush competition, raise prices and eliminate as many as 30,000 jobs, according to union estimates. It would disproportionately harm low-income people and communities of color, who rely on competition between T-Mobile and Sprint and their prepaid brands to keep access affordable.
Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:
“It’s great news that the states are stepping up where the Trump FCC has failed and while the Justice Department leadership sits on the fence. This merger has always been a terrible idea, and it would be a disaster for people who rely on the affordable wireless services these two companies compete to provide today. This large group of state attorneys general apparently understands that no matter how much companies promise, less is indeed less when it comes to competition and choices.
“The inadequate conditions FCC Chairman Pai and his fellow GOP commissioners blessed last month would do nothing to offset this deal’s harms. Neither would the speculative efforts of DoJ leadership, which reportedly continues to ponder ways it might engineer a fourth national competitor out of the scraps of Sprint and various satellite, cable and internet companies circling these discussions.
“Blocking this deal is the best and only way to preserve the competition and more affordable mobile service everyone needs. That’s exactly what the states seem prepared to do — based on their ability and their right to enforce federal antitrust law even if the head of the DoJ antitrust division ignores his own staff’s recommendation to block this deal.
“These states have apparently reached exactly the right conclusion: Combining T-Mobile, Sprint and all of their lower-cost plans and prepaid brands under one roof would be a huge blow to people who need more affordable service. This merger would harm every wireless customer in the United States, but especially those in lower-income communities and communities of color who rely on T-Mobile and Sprint.
“Every sign we’ve seen and every rumble we’ve heard indicate that the career staff at the FCC, DoJ and in these state AG offices have gotten the antitrust analysis exactly right in this case. While FCC Chairman Pai gives away the store and DoJ leadership potentially plays politics, the states are stepping up to protect their residents and constituents.”