After petitions to deny the merger are filed, T-Mobile and Sprint or other supporters of the merger can submit oppositions to the petitions until September 17.
The FCC also established a 180-day timeline for reviewing the merger, but this is an informal guideline because the commission isn’t required to issue a decision by any particular date.
Formal petitions to deny are frequently submitted by advocacy groups, rival companies, or industry experts, but anybody can file one. Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledges offers a handy guide for writing an effective petition.
Public interest review
The FCC is required to determine whether the merger is in the public interest. If the merger doesn’t benefit the public, the FCC could deny it or impose conditions. The Department of Justice could also sue the companies in order to block the deal or force them to accept conditions.
The Obama-era FCC dissuaded Sprint and T-Mobile from merging in 2014 and prevented AT&T from buying T-Mobile in 2011. The Trump administration has generally been more industry-friendly, though the Justice Department tried to block AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, and the FCC is disputing Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media Company.
“To allow the Commission to consider fully all substantive issues regarding the applications and the proposed transaction in as timely and efficient a manner as possible, petitioners and commenters should raise all issues in their initial filings,” the FCC’s announcement yesterday said. “New issues may not be raised in responses or replies. A party or interested person seeking to raise a new issue after the pleading cycle has closed must show good cause why it was not possible for it to have raised the issue previously.”
The merger would reduce the number of major nationwide wireless carriers from four to three and make the combined T-Mobile/Sprint nearly as large as Verizon Wireless or AT&T.
T-Mobile and Sprint made their initial case for the merger in a public interest statement, claiming that the merger is necessary in order to create a viable 5G network, to improve service for rural customers, and “provide a bona fide alternative to traditional in-home broadband providers.”
The companies also claimed that “American consumers will pay less and get more” if the merger is approved. Of course, AT&T promised the same thing in order to get its Time Warner purchase completed, and then promptly raised prices and removed HBO from an unlimited data plan. The T-Mobile/Sprint 5G claims are also contradicted by statements the companies made before they decided to merge.
More merger-related documents can be found here.