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FCC Democrat says T-Mobile–Sprint merger ‘will end a golden age in wireless’

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The agency has formally released its merger order

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Federal Communications Commission has officially released its order approving the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint following a contentious vote last month.

The writing has been on the wall since May, when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled that he would approve the deal and recommend the same to his colleagues. The decision was formalized in the recent vote by FCC commissioners along party lines, with the two Democrats on the commission dissenting.

The Department of Justice has also approved the deal. As part of the regulatory review process, T-Mobile agreed to a time frame for deploying next-generation 5G networks and to divest Sprint subsidiary Boost Mobile. The merger still faces a lawsuit from a coalition of state attorneys general.

In dueling statements released today, Republican commissioners claimed the deal was in the economic interest of consumers and would improve wireless coverage and competition, ideas that have been disputed by consumer advocacy groups.

“In particular, the transaction will help secure United States leadership in 5G, close the digital divide in rural America, and enhance competition in the broadband market,” Pai said in a statement.

Democrats on the commission responded by slamming the decision. “Shrinking the number of national providers from four to three will hurt consumers, harm competition, and eliminate thousands of jobs,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. The merger, she said, “will end a golden age in wireless.”

Commissioner Geoffrey Starks echoed similar concern. “In the short term, this merger will result in the loss of potentially thousands of jobs,” he said in a statement. “In the long term, it will establish a market of three giant wireless carriers with every incentive to divide up the market, increase prices, and compete only for the most lucrative customers.”