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Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger

A group of eight Democratic senators on Tuesday sent lengthy letters to the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice (DOJ) spelling out the reasons why they want regulators to reject the proposed $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.

The senators sent the 6,000-word letters one day before the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees are set to hold hearings examining the proposed merger, which has divided Democrats and aggravated antitrust advocates.

The letters raise concerns that the merger, which would combine two of the nation’s four largest mobile carriers, could harm consumers and workers by decreasing competition and creating higher costs for customers.

“For more than 30 years, our enforcers have understood that fostering robust competition in telecommunications markets is the best way to provide every American with access to high-quality, cutting-edge communications at a reasonable price,” the senators wrote. “This merger will turn the clock back, returning Americans to the dark days of heavily consolidated markets and less competition, with all of the resulting harms.

The initiative was led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Commerce committee. 

Four of the eight senators who signed onto the letter have announced 2020 Democratic presidential bids – Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandJoe Kennedy introduces resolution rejecting Trump’s transgender military ban Press: Democrats dare to think big Buttigieg on Trump: ‘I’m a gay man from Indiana, I know how to deal with a bully’ MORE (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump says Warren should focus ‘more on her heritage’ than investigating his businesses Press: Democrats dare to think big Buttigieg on Trump: ‘I’m a gay man from Indiana, I know how to deal with a bully’ MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPress: Democrats dare to think big Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to boost AI | Klobuchar lashes out at tech in 2020 launch | Bill would create cyber workforce exchange | Advocates call out Facebook before EU elections Bipartisan bill would create public-private cyber workforce exchange MORE (D-Minn.), and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerButtigieg on Trump: ‘I’m a gay man from Indiana, I know how to deal with a bully’ Cuomo to meet with Trump over SALT deduction cap Dem analyst says Fairfax allegations should be vetted before calls are made for him to resign MORE (D-N.J.) – while two have said they are eyeing bids – Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersPress: Democrats dare to think big Rep. Moulton says he may run for president The inconvenient truth behind ‘Medicare for All’ MORE (I-Vt.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Negotiators look to revive stalled border talks Klobuchar jumps into 2020 race Sherrod Brown says Cory Booker sounds ‘like me’ in campaign pitch MORE (D-Ohio). The other signatories are Senate Commerce Committee members Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDems wary of killing off filibuster Overnight Defense: Dems aim to block use of defense funds for wall | Watchdog issues new warning on Syria withdrawal | Trump wants to ‘watch Iran’ from Iraq Senate Dems introduce bill to block Trump from using military funds to build wall MORE (D-N.M.) and Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyPress: Democrats dare to think big Overnight Energy: Court rules for Trump in environmental case over border wall | House bill would stop Alaska refuge drilling | Ads target Dems over Green New Deal To cut carbon emissions, the nuclear option isn’t optional MORE (D-Mass.).

The House Energy and Commerce committee will hold a hearing about the merger on Wednesday while the House Judiciary will hold a separate hearing on Thursday.

T-Mobile’s CEO and President John Legere, Sprint’s executive chairman Marcelo Claure, and the president of the country’s largest labor communications and media labor union Communications Workers of America, along with other advocates and critics of the deal are set to testify on Wednesday, 

The deal does not need congressional approval, but its detractors in Congress have urged the FCC or DOJ to block the merger. 

In their letters, the senators wrote that the merger would amount to a “sharp blow to competition in the telecommunications industry,” raising concerns that the deal would “eliminate competition that has been shown to benefit consumers and stifle the emergence of new carriers.” 

They cited studies that have estimated the merger will lead to higher monthly payments for customers.

The companies have argued that the merger could help them better compete with Verizon and AT&T in deploying the next-generation wireless networks known as 5G.

The senators in the letter disputed this argument, writing that both T-Mobile and Sprint had previously announced individual plans to roll out their own 5G networks.

“T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s sudden claims that neither can create a competitive 5G network separately flies in the face of announcements, disclosures, and marketing to consumers and investors over the past two years,” they wrote.

The letters are a bold message to regulators as T-Mobile and Spring ramp up their merger push. 

Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHouse Dems to mull bills to overturn Trump ObamaCare actions T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push Dem chair offers bill to crack down on robocalls MORE (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at the end of January released a letter with a bipartisan group of lawmakers lauding the proposed deal. The lawmakers, including six Republicans and six Democrats, wrote that they support T-Mobile and Sprint combining their “spectrum resources” to “deliver a more robust wireless broadband network for consumers.”

The FCC and DOJ did not immediately respond to The Hill’s requests for comment.

Legere recently pledged that T-Mobile and Sprint would not raise prices for consumers for at least three years.

“A three year rate lock is an inadequate short-term solution to the long-term structural problem that the merger will create,” the senators wrote in the letters released Tuesday. “Only competitive market pressures can keep rates down over the long run, not temporary rate caps.”

“The bottom line is that no such commitments would be necessary if the Department of Justice blocks this merger and allows the market to continue disciplining consumer costs,” they added.

Updated at 1:30 p.m.

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