back to article FCC boss blesses T-Mobile US-Sprint merger amid sketchy promises, lashings of incoherency

America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is likely to approve a controversial $26bn merger between the third and fourth largest US mobile carriers, T-Mobile and Sprint, sparking claims of regulatory inconsistency and coziness with the mobile industry. As has become the norm at the federal regulator, the decision …

  1. Keven E

    Classic political redirect

    Last week...Pai's all "I'm active against robo-calling.... look at me doing something for consumers!".

  2. DCFusor Silver badge

    Hey, Pai is a jerk, we all know that, and it's hurting us.

    What I'd like to know is how letting them fail and leaving us with just Verizon and ATT as the only abusive duopoly in town is good for us?

    The lobbying is strong with this one....They were both gonna fail, and might still, even after a merger.

    5G is something we rural people look at with disgust, it'll never come here, though we're eventually getting fiber. We are actually glad we won't be depending on zillions of little cells making it easier to track us and control the version of facts we see, person by person.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "5G is something we rural people look at with disgust"

      This urban person doesn't hold it in very high regard either.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        "This urban person doesn't hold it in very high regard either."

        Nor this one. I see 5G as a cross between a wet dream and a boondoggle.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      That's the problem - our choice is between 2 or 3 big players. If we hadn't allowed all the mergers years ago we wouldn't have two players with such a huge share of the market.

      Once you start allowing all the small "harmless" mergers you produce bigger and bigger companies, making the case for allowing their competitors to merge to be able to compete. If we get to three, and one gets really strong and one gets really weak, I'm sure we'll be hearing about reasons why we should allow the #2 and #3 players to merge to take on that big bad bully #1.

      This is why the US has so many oligopolies, because regulators think it is harmless when a player with 7% and a player with 5% merge in a field of 7 or 8 competitors. That triggers the next merger, and the next, and eventually we get down to a field of 2 or 3 and Europeans wonder how in the heck we pay so damn much for the services they provide.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      "What I'd like to know is how letting them fail and leaving us with just Verizon and ATT as the only abusive duopoly in town is good for us?"

      That couldn't functionally happen. These companies are massive and can continue or restructure in time to avoid a financial failure. However, let's assume that they don't do so and do eventually fail. Market share of 12% and 17% is a valuable commodity to a buyer. That buyer could not be either remaining company for antitrust reasons, and could not be the same company. So there would be a lot of administrative restructuring, but there would still be four providers. It is conceivable that one could be mismanaged so much that it loses all its market share, but that's a lot of supposition and previous market share numbers don't seem to show that. So regulation is likely to prevent a triopoly and at least delays one for a while, hopefully long enough for other people to get into the market because they know that competition will be supported and they will have a chance.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Hey, Pai is a jerk, we all know that, and it's hurting us.

    I'm not sure "jerk" is the right description. Maybe more like one of the inept and self-focused on power and wealth types? This sort of crap seems pretty much the standard mode of operation of our government these days: Power to the big guys and screw the populace.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      I don't think he's inept at all. He's doing a great at accomplishing what he was put there to do: ensuring that the telecoms can continue to enrich themselves at every opportunity.

  4. LenG

    Undoing the damage

    "As has become the norm at the federal regulator, the decision appears to have been made solely by the chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, "

    How many decades is it going to take to undo the damage this idiot has inflicted?

  5. ecofeco Silver badge

    Well crap

    T-Mobile bought the company I was using and now they want shrink our choices even more.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Why should telephones be any different?

    In comparison with other countries in the OECD, the US has higher degrees of market concentration and corporate profits across a range of industries: airlines, utilities, media, etc. So, why should it be any different for the phone networks? You already pay over the odds for service, so what's wrong with a little more?

    Research in Europe suggests that going from 4 networks to 3 is the key change which allows the market to "stabilise" and prices to stop falling.

    That said, there is an argument to be made for the merger given Sprint's debt levels and need to play technogical catch up, having bet more than once on "losing" technologies (iDEN and WiMax), though the current deal is really little more than a gift for Softbank and other shareholders. But if that is the case, the regulation in other areas, such as making it easier for MVNOs or letting you keep your number when switching networks, could help open up the market. Yeah, I know, ain't gonna happen.

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Now Robert Mueller has nothing to do, maybe he could have a look under Pai's crust, bet there's a lot of gravy there.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am torn on this.

    It is straight up an illegal merger, that is a given. However there is another side to this. Back in the day, when ATT, aka Ma Bell, was THE phone company, they were so large, bloated, and convoluted, with secret back doors, hidden codes and stuff, it was really fun to exploit them, and they were so big they could not move fast enough to keep up. Megacorportions are only really good for one thing, entertainment hacking.

  9. DCFusor Silver badge

    Competition?

    Where I live I have one choice for landline - the local telco coop. They are also the only not-satellite choice for internet and very low quality cable TV.

    They say they will have fiber to the premises in 5 years or so, I might get lucky in two. Right now you have to be in the county seat to get it at all. Monopoly pricing.

    The rest of us? DSL at $80/mo for 1 megabit up, 3 down. Faster not available. Cell phones don't work in valleys.

    If you have a cell phone, which I don't - It's Verizon or roaming charges, or again, satellite. Neighbors complain about Verizon's well known dodgy billing practices.

    I wouldn't know...I have a landline and I'm good. My time away from home is my time, not for any bozo who has my number. I don't keep minutes available on my Volt's built-in phone, and don't even know its number (those are some expensive minutes - satellite - and they roll off if not used up).

    Yes, there are other providers a few miles away (Cox cable and AT&T in the big town some miles up the interstate) - but as has been reported - and is true - they make agreements to not compete on one another's turf.

    That SHOULD be the story, it's not in dispute, but gets willfully ignored when stories like this come up, How can you reduce zero competition further?

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