You’re in luck if you have heaps of cash lying around: On Friday, the Justice Department approved the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which would crush competition, eliminate thousands of jobs — and raise prices for all wireless customers.
Yes, all. The merger would turn T-Mobile into a behemoth on par with AT&T and Verizon, with zero incentive to keep its prices reasonable. This would harm low-income people and communities of color, who disproportionately rely on T-Mobile and Sprint for more affordable plans and prepaid services.
The Justice Department’s own antitrust experts reportedly recommended blocking this deal, and for good reason: It would leave the United States with just three national wireless-service providers.
But antitrust chief Makan Delrahim — a Trump appointee — ignored this guidance and instead spent weeks negotiating with T-Mobile and Sprint. To secure the Justice Department’s approval, the two carriers had to agree to sell off some assets to DISH Network, including prepaid subsidiaries like Boost Mobile, spectrum licenses and retail stores.
The dish on DISH
The Justice Department imposed these concessions because it recognizes that losing Sprint would irrevocably harm competition and wireless users. But instead of just enforcing antitrust law and stopping the merger, the DoJ is trying to prop DISH up as the fourth national carrier.
There are more than a few problems with this convoluted approach. DISH has owned valuable wireless airwaves for many years, but has made no effort to provide real wireless services that could even begin to compete against the offerings of AT&T, Verizon and a post-merger T-Mobile.
DISH also has massive debt and a rapidly shrinking satellite-TV business, and it’s doubtful that it can find enough cash to build a nationwide 5G network while growing the Boost customer base in a way that will actually replace the competitive forces that Sprint exerted on the wireless market.
Even if DISH defies the odds and builds a 5G network reaching 70 percent of the country by the DoJ’s mid-2023 deadline, that’s four years of lost competition from Sprint, a carrier that already reaches a far greater percentage of the country.
Incidentally, DISH initially lobbied against the deal, switching sides when it served its bottom line to do so.
“DISH executives were against this merger before they were for it,” said my Free Press colleague S. Derek Turner. “The fact that they’ve carved out a windfall for their company now does nothing to change the analysis they correctly put into the FCC record on this deal’s many harms.”
This fight isn’t over
While the FCC will likely follow in the Justice Department’s footsteps, attorneys general in 13 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in June that could block the merger once and for all.
The lawsuit is a powerful example of elected officials standing up for their constituents. And it’s happening thanks in part to the hundreds of Free Press members who called their state AGs and urged them to stop this deal.
We’ve fought this merger from the day it was announced more than two years ago, and we refuse to give up this fight just because Trump’s political appointee at the DoJ and the unscrupulous FCC chairman have decided to ignore the public interest.