Opposition to T-Mobile/Sprint merger grows

The 4Competition Coalition, an alliance against the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, has gained the support of two rural wireless carriers and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA).

The group, which is now comprised of 18 members, contends the merger would lead to higher prices, fewer choices and a reduced quality of service, particularly among people living in rural areas.

WISPA has more than 1,000 members that provide service to more than 4 million customers. The other new members—United Wireless Communications, Indigo Wireless, the American Antitrust Institute and Demand Progress Education Fund—are joining a coalition that includes C Spire, the Rural Wireless Association and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.

“No matter how you slice it, this merger is a bad deal for rural Americans,” Claude Aiken, president and CEO of WISPA, said in a statement. “T-Mobile claims that Sprint’s vast holding of the 2.5 GHz spectrum will help them increase coverage, but in the past T-Mobile’s buildout focus has largely been on populated urban areas. There are no assurances that rural Americans will ever see benefits from this merger.”

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Todd Houseman, CEO of United Wireless Communications, said that his company’s long-standing roaming agreement with Sprint is in jeopardy because T-Mobile hasn’t committed to maintaining the partnership. “Like many rural wireless carriers, we have a long history of mutually beneficial roaming agreements with Sprint that ensure our customers’ phones work away from home,” he said in a statement.

“Sprint and T-Mobile argue the deal will improve service in rural areas, but their rationale doesn’t make sense,” Dave Tews, president of Indigo Wireless, said in a statement. “By limiting the number of nationwide carriers, this deal would reduce the number of partners that rural wireless carriers can buy network capacity from, giving the new T-Mobile the incentive and ability to raise wholesale prices and hurt rural consumers.”

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T-Mobile’s proposed $26 billion merger with Sprint needs to receive approval from the FCC to move forward, but the review is currently suspended due to the partial federal government shutdown. The review won’t resume until Congress and President Donald Trump reach an agreement on a federal spending bill.