Civil Rights Groups Strike Diversity Agreement with T-Mobile-Sprint

A number of civil rights groups have struck an agreement with T-Mobile-Sprint to expand on the companies' diversity initiatives significantly if the two close on their merger. Those include expanding wireless to low income communities and a "significant philanthropic investment."

According to the groups, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been filed with the FCC along those lines, which include initiatives to improve diversity in the areas of Corporate Governance; Workforce Recruitment and Retention; Procurement and Entrepreneurship; Wireless Services (including 5G Wireless Services) for Low Income Consumers; and Philanthropy and Community Investment.

Currently, the Justice Department has agreed not to block the deal per a settlement with the companies to address its antitrust concerns, but a federal district court must still sign off on the agreement to make sure it is in the public interest and the deal is being challenged by some states.

The FCC's Republican majority have voted for the deal, and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel against, but Democrat Geoffrey Starks has not announced a vote, so it won't be official until he does so or the time he is allotted to vote has expired.

The groups, comprising the National Urban League, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Action Network, UnidosUS, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, urged the FCC to approve the deal "so the combined New T-Mobile can definitively launch these enhanced diversity efforts and expansion of service to all communities included in the MOU.

But while the deal looks to be on track on the federal side, a bunch of state attorneys general have sued to block it, including on the grounds of its impact on communities of color. The agreement could help promote a settlement of that suit.

“The New T-Mobile has made serious and significant commitments to diversity and inclusion to win approval of this transaction,” National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “T-Mobile has made these commitments through this MOU and thus directly to the diverse communities that they serve and are represented by the multicultural organizations who are party to the MOU. In doing so, T-Mobile and the Multicultural Organizations acknowledge that 21st-century notions of ‘public interest, convenience and necessity’ along with ‘consumer welfare’ must include a commitment to diversity and inclusion. This includes spending with diverse suppliers, employing a racially diverse workforce and C-suite, and increasing employment and service opportunities in areas left behind in the digital revolution."

Among the key provisions of the MOU:

1. "Standing up a national diversity and inclusion council comprised of non-employees from diverse groups, including each of the multicultural leadership organizations that are party to the MOU, and other highly esteemed community leaders to facilitate open communication over the development, monitoring, and evaluation of diversity initiatives and to provide advice to the New T-Mobile senior executives."

2. "With the help and input of the council, developing and implementing a Diversity Strategic Plan addressing each of the key elements of the MOU and reflecting best practices in the industry.

3. "Increasing the diversity of its leadership and workforce at all levels including its Board governance, to reflect the diversity of the communities in which it operates.

4. "Making a targeted effort to increase partnerships, business, and procurement activities with diverse business enterprises in a range of categories such as financial and banking services, advertising, legal services and asset sales. New T-Mobile aims to become a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable by 2025.

5. "Expanding wireless offerings to low income citizens, underserved minority populations and insular and rural areas, and to organizations serving these underserved communities.

"A significant philanthropic investment for institutions serving disadvantaged or underrepresented communities to support tech entrepreneurship and to bridge the gap in literacy."

“T-Mobile is honored to partner with these visionary organizations to create an action plan of this magnitude that includes commitments to diversity and inclusion that are bolder than ever before,” John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile and CEO of New T-Mobile, said in a statement. “With this MOU, we have doubled down on ensuring we represent the communities we serve today and will serve as the New T-Mobile in the future. We are excited for the New T-Mobile to become a reality so we can get to work on delivering these commitments.” 

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.