The FCC has voted to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, an agency official told The Verge, with commissioners voting down party lines by a margin of 3 to 2. The two Democratic members have expressed their dissent to the $26 billion transaction announced April of last year in FCC filings and, in one particular member's case, an op-ed.
Recently-appointed commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who proposed that the FCC's review of the deal be halted as it was investigating Sprint's alleged embezzlement of public funds, published his objections to a "rush to judgment" in a press release.
"I believe that T-Mobile and Sprint have not proven that their merger will benefit the public interest," Starks wrote. "Vague promises do not change what was true when this deal was first proposed and what remains true today – the harms from this merger are not overcome by any condition imposed in the majority’s order. "
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also provided a short statement through her office, but also wrote a slightly broader tableau, published in The Atlantic this morning, which detailed some of the consequences she expects from a consolidated New T-Mobile:
The T-Mobile–Sprint merger will end a golden age in wireless that helped bring to market lower prices and more innovative services. It will mean an end to the competitive rivalry that reduced consumer rates by 28 percent during the past decade. Similarly, the pressure to support unlimited-data plans and free international roaming will fade. Offers by carriers to pay early-termination fees to help families switch to plans that fit their lives will fall by the wayside. And the network improvements that will bring us the next generation of wireless service, known as 5G, will proceed more slowly and yield fewer jobs without the fuel of competitive pressure.
Both Rosenworcel and Starks expressed doubts on the commission's willingness to enforce the remedial conditions that the combined entity will fulfill and why it did not follow through on due diligence in fully investigating the deal.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai signaled the agency's approval in August. He and his Republican cohorts, Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr make up the rest of the five-member panel. In July, the Department of Justice gave its required rubber stamp to the deal.
However, Sprint and T-Mobile have reportedly committed to not close on the merger until they can resolve a lawsuit to block it from 17 state attorneys general as well as the A.G. for the District of Columbia. Arguments are expected to begin on December 9.
The companies have made inroads with some state officials by proposing concessions to increase 5G coverage in rural areas. Mississippi is the latest of seven states to sign onto the Department of Justice's consent decree for the merger.
FCC's official decision
The FCC came out with its official approval of the deal yesterday. See the full text here.