Sprint Tries To Block 'Brazenly Anticompetitive' Wireless Merger

Sprint-Nextel has made no secret of its opposition to AT&T's proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile. Today the fourth largest wireless company took its arguments to the legal system by filing suit to block the planned merger.

"AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile is brazenly anticompetitive," Sprint says in its papers, filed in federal district court in Washington. "In one fell swoop, AT&T's proposed purchase would eliminate one of four national competitors and marginalize a second (Sprint), pushing the market back toward a 1980s-style cell phone duopoly."

The move comes just days after the Department of Justice filed its own suit alleging that the merger would be anticompetitive.

The advocacy group Free Press said it wasn't surprising that "third parties" like Sprint were going to court. "This is an open and shut case," Free Press said in a statement. "The Department of Justice has all the evidence it needs to block this job-killing merger, and we expect the courts will quickly agree."

If a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile was to go through, the newly constituted company and Verizon would control around 80% of the wireless market.

There's really no way to see that figure as a plus for wireless users, especially those who access the Web through their smartphones. If nothing else, the effect on neutrality could be devastating.

As things are, wireless carriers have vowed to sue to block the Federal Communications Commission's new neutrality rules from taking effect. Those rules, approved last December, prohibit wireless providers from blocking competing apps and services.

If those rules are invalidated by the courts -- as some observers expect -- the only thing keeping wireless companies from blocking apps or services will be market competition. But the state of competition obviously will undergo significant change if AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon are allowed to hold a duopoly over wireless service.

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