6 Senate Democrats Urge FCC's Pai To Reconsider T-Mobile Merger

T-Mobile's proposed $26 billion acquisition of Sprint should be rejected despite the companies' promise to build out a 5G network, six senate Democrats are telling regulators.

“The behavioral conditions and voluntary commitments offered are filled with loopholes, lack meaningful enforcement mechanisms, and do not come close to ameliorating the negative effects that a reduction in wireless competition would cause for consumers across the country,” Sens. Tom Udall (New Mexico), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and Cory Booker (New Jersey) say in a letter sent Thursday to the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department.

The lawmakers are urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reconsider his support for the merger. If the deal gains approval, the country will only have three major wireless carriers -- Verizon, AT&T and the newly merged T-Mobile/Sprint. 

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Udall and the other senators say the consolidation will prove harmful. “We are concerned that this four-to-three merger does not serve the public interest and would result in substantial anticompetitive effects, harming consumers, workers, and innovation,” they write.

Staff at the DOJ's antitrust division reportedly have recommended blocking the deal, but antitrust head Makan Delrahim hasn't yet made a decision.

The FCC's Pai endorsed the merger, arguing that it will spur 5G deployment and bring high-speed broadband to rural parts of the country -- many of which lack access to fast web connections.

T-Mobile and Sprint recently promised that if the acquisition closes, they will build a high-speed network that will cover 97% of the country within three years, including 85% of rural Americans.

The FCC's two other Republican commissioners appear to support the transaction, but Democrat Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voiced reservations. On Monday, she called for the FCC to publish the companies' proposed promises and conditions of the deal, and solicit comments.

Udall and the others say they agree with Rosenworcel that the public should have an opportunity to weigh in. The lawmakers are urging the FCC to post the companies' merger plans and give the public 30 days to file comments.

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