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Justice, FCC Defend T-Mobile-Sprint Merger in New York Court

The Justice Department and FCC have told a New York District court that their respective approvals of the T-Mobile-Sprint deal, with attendant conditions to drive rural 5G deployment and competition, should add legal weight on the Judicial scale in favor of that merger.

That came in a statement of interest filed Friday (Dec. 20) with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. That court is currently hearing a challenge to the merger by D.C. and 12 states--New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Related: T-Mobile-Sprint Trial Begins

"Both the Antitrust Division and the FCC took nationwide actions on behalf of the American people in response to the merger at the heart of this private antitrust suit, based on their factual findings and determinations that their chosen relief was in the public interest. Now, plaintiffs in this case, a minority of States, ask this court to displace those findings and decisions by imposing a nationwide permanent injunction.

To secure such relief, the plaintiff States must prove it is both necessary and in the public interest, an inquiry the United States respectfully submits should take into account the Antitrust Division’s and the FCC’s findings and decisions and the relief they already have secured."

Those findings were that the merger was in the public interest given various conditions imposed, most notably 5G deployment commitments from T-Mobile and requiring Sprint to spin off Boost Mobile to Dish and providing the latter with some help in turning that, eventually, into a facilities-based carrier that would create a new, fourth, major wireless carrier after the merger reduced that number to three.

As a result of that agreement, which a number of states signed on to, "consumers in rural areas will gain new access to high quality 5G networks and consumers nationwide will continue to have four fully competitive options for their mobile wireless services," they told the court.

To win a permanent injunction, they said, the plaintiffs "must convince this honorable court that it is not merely acceptable, but beneficial to the public, to deprive consumers nationwide of a higher quality T-Mobile network and DISH’s commitment to build a nationwide retail mobile wireless network, and to deprive consumers in rural states, which have disproportionately chosen to support the Antitrust Division’s settlement rather than join in this litigation, of new access to 5G networks."

That harm to rural residents "weighs strongly against a nationwide injunction," they said.

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.