A hot potato: The FCC just last month said it had learned that Sprint received tens of millions of dollars in government subsidies for the Lifeline program “even though subscribers were not using the service.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said it was outrageous that a company would claim millions of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing, adding that the enforcement bureau would be investigating the matter further.
The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved the planned merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, The Verge is reporting. The publication, citing an unnamed FCC official, said the commission voted along party lines to push the deal through (3-2, Republicans over Democrats).
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (D) voiced her criticism of the merger in an op-ed piece in The Atlantic this morning. In it, Rosenworcel pointed to the aftermath of airline and pharmaceutical mergers – baggage fees, smaller seats and the rising cost of lifesaving medications – as examples of what can happen when markets consolidate.
“There’s no reason to think the mobile-phone industry will be different,” she said, adding that shrinking the number of providers from four to three will hurt consumers, harm competition and eliminate thousands of jobs.
The Justice Department over the summer handed down its approval of the mega merger, albeit with some concessions in place. Sprint will be forced to sell its prepaid business to Dish, setting the satellite provider up to be the nation’s new fourth major wireless player.
Geoffrey Starks, the other Democratic commissioner, also voiced his disapproval of the merger. "While I hope for the sake of consumers that I am wrong, I fear that we will one day look back at this decision and recognize it as a moment that forever changed the U.S. wireless industry, and not for the better."