The FCC has expressed support for a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, but critics warn that the deal will lead to less competition and higher prices for Americans. 

On Monday, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement in support of an ongoing effort to merge Sprint and T-Mobile, two of the four largest telecom companies in the United States. Pai stated that his support for the controversial merger comes in response to a promise by the two corporations to bring the equally controversial 5G, or 5th generation, cellular network to rural America.

Two of the FCC’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. The commitments made today by TMobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives,Pai wrote. The “digital divide” is a reference to the fact the cellular companies tend to release new technologies in cities, often leaving rural towns behind. “For example, the companies have committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97% of our nation’s population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99% of Americans within six years. This 5G network would also reach deep into rural areas, with 85% of rural Americans covered within three years and 90% covered within six years.”

Pai also noted that T-Mobile and Sprint promised not to raise prices for three years. With his announcement, Pai has essentially guaranteed the FCC will approve the merger. Pai’s statements are supported by Republican commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, with Carr tweeting that the merger “will enable Americans across the country to see more competition and an accelerated buildout of fast, 5G service, including in rural America.”

However, FCC Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel disagreed with the sentiment, stating, “We’ve seen this kind of consolidation in airlines and with drug companies. It hasn’t worked out well for consumers. But now the FCC wants to bless the same kind of consolidation for wireless carriers. I have serious doubts.”

The deal is also opposed by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who stated that Pai’s support for the deal “makes it even more important for the Department of Justice to step up to the plate to block this merger.” The Justice Department is still deciding whether to sue in an attempt to block the deal due to worries about creating a monopoly.

The T-Mobile-Sprint merger is still anti-competitive and anti-consumer,” said Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “The companies have made a handful of promises on 5G, rural buildout and in-home broadband that are speculative, not specific to the merger and completely unenforceable. Does anyone really believe that this FCC, which has asked nothing of the big mobile companies for over two years, will require the companies to abide by these commitments?”

Although T-Mobile and Sprint are making promises to expand the 5G network to all corners of America, as Ars Technica notes, the two companies have already claimed they were building a nationwide 5G network on their own prior to the merger. The promise to combat the digital divide offers nothing new to comfort Americans who fear what will happen when they have even less choice for cellular providers.

The little bit of price competition people have enjoyed thanks to the rivalry between Sprint and T-Mobile could keep sending prices lower. So a meaningless and unenforceable promise to just tread water where we are now is a sad joke, and nothing more,” the advocacy group Free Press stated.

The FCC has increasingly become the subject of criticism due to the commission’s close ties to the wireless and telecom industry. In 2015, the Harvard Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics published an expose by investigative journalist Norm Alster on the financial ties between the US federal government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Alster exposes how the wireless industry has “captured” the FCC,  meaning it is controlled by the industry it is supposed to be regulating. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has ties to the industry, having previously served as Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications Inc.

Beyond the concerns of corporate control of a government agency, the merger is also likely to create concern among those who already have questions about the privacy and health impacts of the ongoing 5G roll out. As The Mind Unleashed has previously reported, cities and localities are raising alarm bells due to the federal government and their partners in Big Wireless usurping local control of the 5G expansion. The Mayor of Danville, California even admitted that the council had “lost control” of the 5G rollout to the federal government and Big Wireless.

By making the T-Mobile-Sprint merger dependent on expanding 5G to all corners of the US, the FCC is helping push forward a controversial and dangerous technology while encouraging a deal that will likely lead to fewer choices for the American people. No matter how you slice it, the T-Mobile-Sprint Merger is good for 5G and bad for the American people.

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