A merger between wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint could harm consumers, particularly low-income ones, Senate Democrats say in a letter to regulators.
"Aggressive antitrust enforcement benefits consumers and competition in the wireless market," Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and seven other lawmakers write in a letter sent late last week to the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice. "A combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would raise significant antitrust issues and could dramatically harm consumers."
T-Mobile and Sprint, the country's third- and fourth-largest wireless companies, reportedly plan to announce merger plans by the end of the month.
Klobuchar and the other lawmakers are urging regulators to begin a review now, even before a deal is announced. The senators contend that a merger would lead to price increases, which could ultimately lead low-income families to abandon mobile broadband service.
"Today, smartphones are not really just phones at all," the lawmakers write. "For many, they are the primary connection to the internet. An anticompetitive acquisition would increase prices, burdening American consumers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, or forcing them to forego their internet connection altogether."
In 2014, T-Mobile agreed to be acquired by Sprint in a deal worth an estimated $32 billion. But the companies called off the deal after federal regulators raised concerns.
The lawmakers say it's "surprising" that the companies are again considering merging. "T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint would very likely be presumptively anticompetitive," they write. "We are concerned that this consolidation would increase prices, reduce incentives to offer new plans, and allow the remaining carriers to curtail their investment in their networks."