Union Says T-Mobile Should Not Get COVID-19 Stimulus Money

The Communications Workers of America, joined by a bunch of other groups including computer company-backed Open Technology Institute (New America), called on Congress Tuesday (April 21) not to give T-Mobile any pandemic relief money to meet "merger specific build-out commitments it agreed to when it sought approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Department of Justice, state attorneys general, and state public utilities commissions." 

Related: FCC Approves Sprint/T-Mobile Merger 

Congress and the Trump Administration have signaled that money for infrastructure buildouts should be part of the pandemic recovery plan, but the groups, which also include the Rural Wireless Association and Free Press Action said that should not include money for the T-Mobile-Sprint buildout conditions. 

T-Mobile and Sprint committed to deploy 5G service covering 97% of the American people within three years, and 99% by year six. That included deploying 5G covering 85% of rural Americans within three years and 90% within six. 

T-Mobile should not get a "corporate handout" for meeting commitments it touted to get the deal approved," they wrote in a letter to members of Congress.

The letter points out that the FCC has signaled that the merger condition buildouts will not be eligible for its $9 billion 5G fund, saying it would be “inappropriate to allow the use of high-cost support to fulfill merger conditions." 

Related: All the Latest News on COVID-19 Impact on Industry

What's sauce for the 5G fund goose is sauce for the COVID-19 infrastructure gander, CWA et. al argue.  

“Congress must hold the new T-Mobile accountable for the promises it made to ram the merger through the approval process,” said CWA director of government affairs Dan Mauer in a statement. “T-Mobile promised that the merger would give the company the resources to build out 5G to nearly the entire U.S. population, including rural areas. COVID-19 recovery funds should be used to address the crisis caused by the pandemic, not as a corporate handout to help the new T-Mobile fulfill the promises the company was eager to make to push this merger through.”

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.