Democratic Senators Seek T-Mobile-Sprint Hearing

A quintet of Democratic senators have written the Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Opponents of the merger say it will further consolidate an already consolidated industry. Proponents, including the companies, say combining the number three and four wireless carrier will simply create a stronger competitor to numbers one and two--AT&T and Verizon. The Democrats are clearly leaning toward that first camp.

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A Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee held a hearing last June, but the Senators say questions remain about how the deal will impact wireless--particularly the rollout of 5G--prices and innovation.

They pointed out that when AT&T proposed to acquire T-Mobile in 2011, both the FCC and Justice Department concluded reducing the number of carriers from four to three would harm consumers. They pointed out that was when only 35% of Americans owned smart phones. That number is now 77% and growing as reliance on mobile internet increases. Given that, they said, both should be as skeptical, if not moreso, of this latest effort to decrease mobile competition.

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"Should the deal be completed, the nation’s four large wireless carriers will become three, which could leave consumers with fewer choices and the marketplace with less competition," they said. “The potential consequences of this merger are too great for the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to ignore,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Commerce leadership. “We should examine the impact of combining these two disruptors into one mega company.”

Signing on to the letter were Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

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.