Senate Democrats are urging regulators to scrutinize whether T-Mobile's proposed $26 billion acquisition of Sprint will harm consumers, including ones who primarily connect to the internet through their phones.
"We urge you to closely review this transaction to ensure that it does not threaten to harm consumers or competition in the wireless market," Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and others write in a letter to the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.
The lawmakers' letter comes one week after T-Mobile and Sprint said they had agreed to merge, leaving the country with three major wireless carriers. Klobuchar and the other lawmakers -- Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) -- say the deal raises concerns.
The senators raise specific questions about how the proposed consolidation may affect the growing number of people who rely on smartphones to go online. One in five Americans are currently "smartphone only" web users -- meaning that they own smartphones and don't subscribe to wireline service at home, according to a report released last week by the Pew Research Center.
"As more than three-quarters of American adults now own smartphones, including many who depend on these devices for their primary connection to the internet, an anticompetitive acquisition in the wireless market could result in higher prices for American consumers or force some people to forego their internet connection altogether," the lawmakers write.
They also are asking regulators to examine how the deal will affect lower-cost options for service, service in rural areas, and innovation.
"T-Mobile and Sprint have led the way in offering wireless products and service options that are more appealing to lower-income consumers, including no contract plans, prepaid and no credit check plans, and unlimited text, voice, and data plans," the lawmakers write. "These lower-cost options are especially important for Americans who rely on mobile broadband as their primary or only internet connection."