FCC Chairman Ajit Pai formally recommended the approval of the revised $26.5 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint with a draft order on Wednesday, in another step on the road to the deal's approval.
The stage is now set for the FCC to vote on approval of the deal.
"After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas," Pai said in a statement.
Pai had previously recommended that the merger should go ahead, with conditions, on May 20. However, the Justice Department declined to sign off on the merger until Dish Network agreed to purchase Sprint's prepaid customers and, eventually, build a fourth wireless network in the US. Now, the FCC's chairman is moving to approve the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile with the Dish component included as a part of the transaction.
Opponents to the merger -- inside and outside the agency -- have already expressed their disapproval to latest moves. "I believe we need more competition, not less," said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said on Twitter Wednesday. "I am not convinced that removing a competitor will lead to better outcomes for consumers."
Rosenworcel, along with the Rural Wireless Association and others, also argued that the FCC should open a new proceeding on the merger to allow the public to comment on the new terms of the merger, including the Dish component. T-Mobile and Sprint have already opposed a formal comment period on proposed changes to their planned merger, saying that interested parties have already had time to comment.
T-Mobile also still faces a lawsuit from 16 state attorneys general proclaiming that the merger is anti-competitive. Oregon joined the case on Monday. That suit is now due to start on December 7. However, a new report from Fox Business indicates that T-Mobile executives have opened negotiations with the state AGs to potentially gain their support..
- Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Gets FCC Chairman's Approval, Albeit With Conditions
- DoJ Signs Off on Sprint/T-Mobile Merger, Sets Up Dish as 4th Nationwide Provider
- Dish/T-Mobile/Sprint: Winners, Losers & What's Next
- Sprint Touts 5G Coverage as Merger Pressure Mounts
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading