Rosenworcel: T-Mobile-Sprint Deal Approval Got Political Rewrite

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is telling Congress that the commission's approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger was essentially a back-room deal with her Republican colleagues approving the meld before the FCC had fully analyzed it, followed by a political rewrite after the analysis was completed.

That came in testimony in an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee Thursday (Dec. 5).

Related: FCC Nails Down Oversight Hearing

She told the panel that the merger, "by any metric," would raise prices, lower service quality, and impede innovation.

But she suggested the FCC was not going by metrics when the three Republican members made their decision to approve it. Rosenworcel and fellow Democrat Geoffrey Starks voted against the deal.

'[T]he FCC made this decision behind closed doors with an unacceptable lack of transparency. Three of my colleagues agreed to the transaction months ago without having any legal, engineering, or economic analysis from the agency before us. Then, once the agency finally had analysis produced by expert staff, key parts of the decision were rewritten by the FCC’s political leadership behind closed doors," she alleged. "This took place after a slew of meetings between FCC leadership and the merging companies and after the Department of Justice expert that had been tapped to lead our review had left the building."

Rosenworcel said the FCC should have to make public the initial draft of the item so Congress, the courts and the public can see what changed, and why.

Rosenworcel spent much of her prepared testimony reading the FCC the riot act, saying: "I wish I could report that this agency was promoting competition and protecting consumers. I wish I could report that this agency was abiding by its mission to promote public safety. I wish I could report that this agency has a long-term spectrum plan to set this country up for 5G leadership globally with a guarantee that all communities are connected here at home. I wish I could report that those most at risk of falling behind in the digital age were seeing new opportunities as a result of our efforts to extend the reach of communications to all," but clearly indicating that the current FCC's policies had failed to "meet this moment." 

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.