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FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday formally confirmed its approval of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger along party lines, clearing the final hurdle for government approval.

While the approval was announced Oct. 16, the vote margin and order had been held until a final draft of the order could be compiled, according to a source familiar with the process.

The merger of the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless providers is still facing a roadblock as a group of 17 state attorneys general forge ahead in its lawsuit to block the deal. 

All three Republican FCC commissioners approved the deal.

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

Both Democrats on the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, made clear last month that they were opposing the deal over concerns that it would come at a steep price to consumers.

“Based on my review of the record, I believe that T-Mobile and Sprint have failed to prove that their merger will benefit the public interest,” Starks said in a statement Tuesday.

“While the parties promise their merger will accelerate the availability of some form of ‘5G’ for some Americans, history teaches us that the most likely effect of this merger will be higher prices and fewer options for all Americans,” he continued.

The FCC’s order refuted claims that the deal would harm consumers, in part because of the new wireless company that will be created.

As part of a deal with the Department of Justice this summer, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to give a collection of wireless-spectrum assets and Sprint’s prepaid mobile business to Dish, a satellite television company, for $5 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Dish in turn has been tapped to create a wireless network to assuage concerns that the merger will reduce market competition.

Low-cost provider Boost Mobile will be divested to Dish to facilitate that process, according to the FCC’s order.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees anti-trust concerns, raised concerns about the dissenting opinions in the order.

“While I am still reviewing the decision, the dissenting statements of the Democratic commissioners raise troubling issues about the process undertaken at the FCC for drafting this approval order,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

“I plan to follow up with the Commission to get to the bottom of these allegations and better understand whether – and to what extent – the underlying analysis of the expert staff at the FCC was overruled during the FCC’s review of this transaction.”

–This report was updated at 3:50 p.m.

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