FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr joined chairman Ajit Pai Monday (May 20) in announcing their support of the T-Mobile/Sprint Merger, which combines the number three and number four largest wireless carriers.
That left only FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly uncommitted among the Republicans, though he tweeted late in the day he was "inclined" to follow suit.
Both seemed swayed by the companies' pledges to 1) build out 5G (and their warning that neither could do so separately), 2) help close the rural digital divide, 3) freeze prices, and 4) the just-announced pledge to spin off prepaid service subsidiary, Boost Mobile. The FCC had signaled it had competitive issues with retaining that business.
“I support the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint because Americans across the country will see more competition and an accelerated buildout of fast, 5G services,” Carr said in a statement. “The proposed transaction will strengthen competition in the U.S. wireless market and provide mobile and in-home broadband access to communities that demand better coverage and more choices,” Carr added.
“Today’s commitments to bring 5G to rural America are verifiable and enforceable," he said, something critics of the deal like former Tom Wheeler counselor Gigi Sohn are not convinced of. "The proposed transaction’s investment in rural 5G will help close the digital divide—this [is the] FCC’s top priority,” said Carr. “American leadership in 5G depends on giving all communities a fair shot at next-gen access. I am pleased that the parties have agreed to invest in securing the U.S.’s preeminence in 5G.”