FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel says she’s ‘uncomfortable’ with review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger


Last month we saw FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr come out in support of T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger following the announcement of commitments from the two carriers. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel didn’t feel the same way about the deal, saying she had “serious doubts” about it, and this week she touched a bit more on the merger and the support its gotten from her fellow FCC Commissioners.

During a press conference after an FCC meeting this week, Commissioner Rosenworcel was asked about the T-Mobile-Sprint merger and if there are any additional conditions she’d like to see placed on it. As noted by Cablefax, she expressed concern over the deal, saying that she’s “never seen a transaction dealt like this” and that she’s “uncomfortable” with how the FCC’s review of the deal has happened.

Here’s Commisioner Rosenworcel’s full response to a question about T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger:

“In my time at the agency, I have never seen a transaction dealt with like this. My colleagues have all publicly voted on a transaction that we have absolutely no paper analysis or material in front of us. That just taps in to the worst images of backroom dealing in Washington. I don’t think it’s appropriate that this is how we chose to do it. I think that we should make decisions on the basis of analysis and paper and detail and study before us. Not just some announcement by press release that gets an amen chorus from some portion of this agency. There’s something odd about how this all happened and I just want to say, as a procedural matter, it makes me uncomfortable.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that he believes the T-Mobile-Sprint merger is in the public interest after T-Mobile and Sprint promised to sell Boost Mobile if their deal is approved. The two carriers also made 5G and in-home broadband rollout commitments and pledged to not raise prices for three years. Following these promises, FCC Chairman Brendan Carr also announced his support of the deal and FCC Chairman Mike O’Rielly said that he’s “inclined to support” the merger.

The deal is still being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for any antitrust concerns. Rumors have suggested that the DOJ wants T-Mobile and Sprint to help create a fourth U.S. carrier if their merger is approved. However, no official announcements have been made by the DOJ regarding its review and there’s no word on when a decision might be made.

In the mean time, the attorneys general of Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have joined other states investigating T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed merger. These attorneys general have told the FCC that they plan to join a DOJ examination of the deal and that they need access to documents related to it.

Sources: FCC (YouTube), Reuters

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  • Dustin

    So let me get this straight, she is saying she had no documents? Did she decide not to read the thousands and thousands of pages submitted by the two companies?

    • riverhorse

      Government hacks, political mercenaries…

  • MisterListerSir

    I wish this would just happen already.

    It’s no longer a question of 3 or 4 carriers. That’s no longer a valid view because they aren’t just carriers anymore.

    They are competing in many other areas now. VZW, ATT, and TMO are starting to take on Comcast and the like. Communications and data-infrastructure is no longer segregated into Wireless, Cable, POTS, and Satellite. They’re all now (or on the verge of) offering the same services.

    It’s time to stop thinking of them as “just” carriers or “just” cable companies.

  • riverhorse

    Is a government employee, and not even in the chairmanship, allowed to make such public comments during a pending review?
    Impossible to drain the swamp.

    • Nearmsp

      Ajit Pai is a political appointee, in other words a political hack for Trump.

      • JStatt

        Perhaps. But Ajit Pai was first appointed to the FCC by Obama.

      • marque2

        Maybe – but the fact this gal said there are no documents when TMobile and Sprint have submitted 10s of thousands shows that she has axe to grind as well.

        Isn’t Ajot Pai generally correct that this merger should happen? Should Jessica Rosenworcel be able to scotch the whole thing merely because she has her own (anti Trump) agenda?

        • Ron D Stricklin

          Anti-Trump agenda? While I find the arguments against the tmobile merger ridiculous, it’s clear as day that this is unusual.

        • marque2

          What is unusual?

        • Ron D Stricklin

          Besides the above? Look at the verizon/alltel merger in 2008. Verizon was forced to divest some of the network assets especially in markets where it had an abundance of assets. Combined Sprint and Tmobile would have twice as much network assets as any other single provider. Instead they only need to divest themselves of a prepaid service. But yeah “Anti-Trump agenda”.

      • riverhorse

        Obama originally appointed him. But / and I was talking about someone different. And since you now bring in Trump as well, good luck in 2020, Dems are now savaging each other in their race to full Marxism, and if you are not enough to the Left, you may get run out of your job and community…if not mistakenly iced based on looks. Maybe an expat migration to a country adversarial to Trump & sympathetic to Socialist causes could be an exit plan worth thinking about. In the meantime stay safe, wear an Ilhan or Kamala badge.

  • Mike McDonald

    As for the AGs, it’s all about the “make it rain!” strategy, namely, demonstrate some support for the state by a job expansion commitment especially in an economic development zone. The AG shows they are down w/ the people.

  • JStatt

    The political opposition to this merger is so transparent. The former FCC and DOJ group opposed the merger and are now sour grapes that it appears to be passing under an alternative administration and FCC. I understand opposing the current presidential administration, but this kind of opposition based on baseless platitudes and pure politics is just wrong. There were plenty of “documents” showing why they wanted the merger. You just don’t want it to pass. We get it. You are outvoted on the commission and you lost.

  • Trevnerdio

    Uncomfortable with a 180 day review that’s gone on 400+ days at this point? Oh no, the rushed politics of it all!

    • Red

      Alex, what is “look at me, look at me, look at me”, with a side dish of “this’ll teach not to not make me the first female chair of the commission”? And let’s make this a true daily double!

  • Kevin

    This merger is bad for consumers, it reduces Nationwide wireless competitors from 4 to 3. Anytime there is reduced competition, prices will go up.

    • marque2

      It will increase viable 5g players from two to three. Usually when you have more competitors prices go down.

      • Kevin

        All the players will have 5G soon. T-Mobile has their 600 MHz and 24 GHz for 5g. Sprint will have the 2.5 GHz for 5G. Verizon and Att have millimeter wave for 5g. And then there are more spectrum auctions coming soon such the 3.4 GHz auction for 5G.

        • SirStephenH

          Verizon’s planning on deploying on sub-6GHz later too.

        • Francisco Peña

          ATT already has 6G.. Called 6G-SuperEvolution.

        • marque2

          Yeah but Sprint and T-Mobile will have 5g in name only without the proper specteum to take advantage.

          You know this – why are you trolling?

        • Dustin Roe

          Look at the science: Over 100 Mhz and preferably 200+ is needed to achieve the requirements of the 5G standard. MM wave and over 3GHZ is non-penetrating signals that cannot work like current expectations for connectivity exist. People expect better signal propagation not worse. Providing this with high band spectrum means antennas on nearly every city block with today’s technology. Additional spectrum requires investment if even available, none of the carriers have 100 Mhz nationwide of low and mid band spectrum so all must acquire new technology or more spectrum which takes investment.

          Look at the published financials: US Cellular is not national. Dish has not built an infrastructure. Sprint cannot afford to invest due to high debt load. Softbank has walked away from additional investment. Verizon and At&t have 10’s of billions in free cash flow per quarter, T-Mobile is negative. Sprint and T-Mobile combined are smaller than either At&t or Verizon in customer count.

          My question to you is: Who can provide true nationwide 5G and are there enough available resources to allow 4 providers to be able to reach that point?

        • Kevin

          Eventually every carrier will get Nationwide 5G. This country is so big and it would take a lot of time. 4G LTE will be phasing out when most phones support 5G, and then the 4G LTE spectrum will be reallocated for 5G. By the time they finish 5G, maybe 6G standard will be out.

        • Dustin Roe

          I was looking at total spectrum assets as published not at spectrum allocated for a technology. Throughput (speed) is primarily a function of frequency and bandwidth not technology. True each Generation (2G, 3G, etc.) has added technology to improve bandwidth utilization ratio and allow non contiguous spectrum but in the end you still need a certain amount of total bandwidth to reach the defined speeds of the standard. IMO this total is 100 Mhz for 5G.

    • (J²)

      If you haven’t noticed, prices go up over time regardless.

      T-Mobile is not able to compete with Verizon and AT&T as far as low frequency spectrum which means their 5G will be inferior.

      Guess what? That effectively makes T-Mobile out of their league which means superior rivals will raise prices and take away unlimited again. We literally saw this play out with 4G/LTE. Why would this be any different this time around?

      Also, if you end up paying $20 more for a viable competitor to your traditional ISP which probably already has cash flowing out your butt, I’m sure you’ll be benefiting :)

      The arguments made against this merger just aren’t valid. There’s far more pros than cons here.

      • Eric Davila

        Dude, stop trying to conflate prices that are the result of inflation to pricing that are the result of crony capitalism.

        In your analysis, you pointed out that T-Mobile will be at a competitive disadvantage vs the larger two carriers with the aggregation of spectrum. I would agree, except why is it that your conclusion = lets do more of that. Your working backwards from your conclusion because you already support the merger, but it seems you really haven’t thought out your reasoning beforehand.

        Why would you setup a scenario where you pointed out the problem, and instead of addressing the problem (i.e. breaking up the duopoly or mandating better roaming agreements), you would much rather exacerbate the issue that would make it even worse?

        Part of core concept of the free market is to have companies that compete, which leads to potentially lower pricing and better service offerings. But when you have a largely unregulated industry with pro-corporate government staff and constituents, you will then have companies like Amazon buying out Whole Foods to only price out small businesses who have way less capital to fend them off. Your position would lead us back to a Bell System/AT&T predicament, and a consolidation of corporate power.

        This is one of the most anti-competitive threads I have ever seen.

        • (J²)

          Dude… I don’t think you quite understand how the wireless industry works and why your logic (which would normally be 100% correct) does not work.

          Spectrum is a finite resource. More carriers means less spectrum to go around. Look back to the early 2000’s when we had like 10+ carriers but they all only worked in a few states.

          The only way to drive competition here is to have fairly equal players.

          Breaking up the duopoly and mandating roaming agreement is never going to happen. It’s like saying why not drain the swamp in Washington? Back to reality here… lol

          What do you think this is the UK? We don’t un-fuck anything around here…

        • Eric Davila

          Yeah, I get that its a finite resource. None of what you said addresses the implications of what the merger means or the historical context. I threw out some examples of options and even cited a previous monopoly, and all I got from you is that if was if the issue exist, then lets not do anything to address it. We go double down.

          Do you feel that incarcerated people should stay in jail who were put there because of a little weed even after its been legalized in some states? Your flippant logic sounds like the type of people who’d say that we shouldn’t legalize it at a federal level (fix it) because what would that mean for the people who have served time or are currently serving?

          I’m not trying to smear you, that’s just how you come off right now. Back to the original discussion, just saying it won’t work is not an argument. You’re going to do better than that.

        • (J²)

          You come off like you need a Valium. We live in the real world – like it or not.

          Back to the original topic, nothing you said is realistic. I’m sorry, get over it. Feel free to join the rest of us with solutions that may actually come to fruition.

          Also, you’re comparison makes no sense. We go from wireless service to weed. So now, you think you know me? Because I’m for the merger because the only alternative is to be for watching the industry crumble? Yeah okay.

          There’s no argument. There hasn’t been an argument. As far as I’m concerned, you’re here with your opinion and that’s perfectly fine… it’s okay to disagree with how the industry and country is being run while also knowing ain’t a damn thing going to change.

        • Eric Davila

          It’s an analogy. Essentially anything that’s contrary to your point of view, you dismiss not necessarily because you think it’s right or wrong, but that you think it’s too hard. I’m not saying that as if I know you, you just admitted it. Maybe think before typing.

          So you’re not making an argument for it based off any empirical evidence, you were already in favor for it beforehand regardless of what history has shown us or the effects this has on both less competition and consumer choice.

          Your a hack basically. I’m writing you off. But I’d love to continue this another time when you’ve decided to be at least an honest actor.

        • Francisco Peña

          I find this comment of yours interesting:

          “Part of core concept of the free market is to have companies that compete, which leads to potentially lower pricing and better service offerings. But when you have a largely unregulated industry with pro-corporate government staff and constituents, you will then have companies like Amazon buying out Whole Foods to only price out small businesses who have way less capital to fend them off. Your position would lead us back to a Bell System/AT&T predicament, and a consolidation of corporate power.”

          That is added to the original post about
          “This merger is bad for consumers, it reduces Nationwide wireless competitors from 4 to 3. Anytime there is reduced competition, prices will go up.”

          So which is it? Are they allowed to compete on the free market by merging, or can they not merge because it will be bad for consumers and reduced competition? You can’t say both statements, that free markets compete, and on the other side say they cannot compete because it will harm consumers. That is the nature of free market. We have 2 large companies that dominate coverage and market share. Then we have 2 other companies that are a step behind. I believe ATT/VZW have about 155M-ish subscribers each, TMo has 80M-ish, and Sprint has 50-60M-ish.

          TMo and sprint, will never be able to dominate the big 2, except on price. We all know TMo coverage falls below the big 2, and as much as they try to undercut the prices, that is the only area they will compete, by slashing prices. That is not sustainable over the long term. They cannot expand properly with pennies on the dollar income as they do now as 2 separate companies. I’m NOT advocating for higher prices, but generally, do any of us go with TMo for their nationwide coverage, especially outside the urban centers? Sprint? We can write them off as not being able to compete with themselves.

          So, in order to compete and survive and be a genuine competitor, 2 of the smaller ones opt to merge. That is the free market portion. They see they can’t survive and sustain long term economic viability, so they opt to merge, which should provide more cash flow from an increased subscriber base and combined spectrum, which they will have to sell, which generates more cash for them.

          But now, you say they can’t, which goes against that free market. So if they can’t because you say it will hurt consumers, then if they can’t survive long term and expand coverage, and stay status quo, isn’t that hurting consumers too?

          i left VZW and the great coverage in FL for TMo’s low prices. There are plenty of times in town and outside where my coverage is lacking and I get frustrated. i’m being harmed because of it, but weigh the lower price as offsetting.

          now if TMo merges and let’s say they jack up the rates and still don’t do anything for spectrum, you think many people will stay, if prices are close to the Big 2 but coverage isn’t? nope. That is the beauty of the free market. If TMo raises their rates to the same as the other 2, i’d jump in a heartbeat, and I’m sure many others would too. TMo isn’t going to be stupid to let that happen anytime soon. Maybe down the road, but while on paper they may be part of a new Big 3, in reality they will never be until they offer coverage equal to the 2. And until that happens, they will still need to undercut (either a little or a lot) to get the subscribers (quantity over quality) to help fund. 130M subscribers and doubled or so spectrum is much better than 80M subscribers and half a combine spectrum.

          Forcing them to stay small will ultimately harm us all. The Big 2 don’t need to adjust now.

        • Francisco Peña

          LMFAO.. you marked my analysis as spam… what a joke you are. Didn’t like it countered your flawed “free market yet not really free” argument…

      • Terrell L Washington

        Actually Tmobile has more lowband than Verizon nationwide now and Verizon is not deploying 5G on lowband at all.

        Sprint 2.5ghz midband 5G
        T-Mobile mmwave High band and 600mhz lowband 5G
        AT&T mmwave and b14 5G
        Verizon mmwave only for now.

        It still does not change the fact that Sprint doesn’t have the money for a nationwide 5G network on there own though.

        • (J²)

          That’s unfortunately not the case. T-Mobile will have more low band spectrum once they fully benefit from the incentive auction. Right now, there are many markets where T-Mobile isn’t able to begin using those airwaves. I live in one of them..

          Verizon can do this because it has a large spectrum portfolio. It can use high or low frequencies. T-Mobile cannot as it can only rely on mid to high frequencies for its backbone network.

          The issue is carriers need to deploy 5G without dismantling their existing4G network. Just like when carriers went from 3G to 4G.

          Sprint has the spectrum and cash, Sprint just sucks at running its company which is why companies and customers are leaving. It’s hard to name positive things about this carrier.

          When’s the last time you heard “Sprint” and “Strategy” used together? Never lol

        • Terrell L Washington

          True that Sprint sucks at running its company and that’s basically my point. They are incompetent and there spectrum is going to waste. Tmobile has proven they know how to deploy a network.

          We can have the big two continue dominance

          Tmobile as a medium
          And Sprint as a distant 4th player or we can have 3 strong players.

          Verizon and AT&T have so much power that a combined Sprint and Tmobile is still 3rd place in subscribers and even capex. I dont know about you but I would rather have that and I’m a Sprint customer

  • monkeysoup

    If she’s that uncomfortable, she should take some ex-lax. That will relieve the stoppage and make her feel better.

  • JKLauderdale

    And yet Comcast and Time-Warner went through with nary a glance… Yeah, I use TMobile but am in a fairly large city and surrounded by 2 major ones(Miami, Ft Lauderdale) so the services here are already top notch.

    Sprint being CDMA, their users will eventually have to buy into GSM phones as TMobile phases out their CDMA ntwk as they did with MetroPCS. This means more users on fewer antennae so the smaller areas will have to be boosted in the short term and rebuilt with a more robust design in the long term. Costs go up, passed onto the consumer as the business must remain profitable.