Arkansas Backs T-Mobile-Sprint Settlement

Arkansas has joined in the Department of Justice's settlement of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, bringing the number of states siding with Justice to nine.

Those states are Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Justice is OK with the merger after imposing various conditions, a process that requires DOJ to first file a complaint and then the settlement with conditions. Arkansas has said it is OK with the deal per the DOJ conditions, which include 5G buildout requirements and a spin-off of Sprint's pre-paid businesses to Dish in hopes of cultivating it into a facilities based-competitor since letting T-Mobile and Sprint merger reduces the number of major carriers from four to three.

Related: FCC Officially OKs T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

“We are gratified that Arkansas shares our view of the tremendous benefits to competition that will arise out of the proposed consent judgment,” said assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “A combined T-Mobile and Sprint, coupled with competition from Dish, will provide increased value to residents of Arkansas and consumers nationwide.”

The wording of the settlement can be confusing at times given that there are states on the other side. "The Department’s Antitrust Division and now nine co-plaintiff states have sued to block this transaction, and have agreed to settle the lawsuit based on the proposed settlement," Justice said, which means the states actually support the merger.

On the other side are even more states who have joined a suit to actually block the merger, states that argue that the conditions are insufficient or speculative--Dish is not yet a facilities-based competitor and getting the pre-paid business means it must still leases capacity, not provide its own, though the FCC and Justice are trying to pave the way to that facilities-based status.

Those states include Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The FCC has voted to approve the merger, but T-Mobile and Sprint have said they will not close the deal until the court challenge by New York et al. (as opposed to the court non-challenge by DOJ, Arkansas et al.) has been resolved.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.