On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission formally approved the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, an FCC official told The Verge. The vote comes months after the Justice Department greenlit the deal.
In May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai first signaled that he would vote to approve the merger after the commission and the companies struck a deal that Republicans believed would help foster a faster 5G rollout. The other Republican commissioners, Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly, also voiced support for the merger at the time. The merger was pushed through on a party-line vote with Democrats dissenting, an FCC official told The Verge.
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel announced her disapproval in an op-ed for The Atlantic Wednesday morning. In it, she argues that a merged T-Mobile-Sprint would only hurt consumers, driving up prices and staving off competition.
“These state officials understand something fundamental: With less competition, rates rise and innovation falls. All the evidence demonstrates that this holds true in the mobile-phone industry too,” Rosenworcel said. “If this merger succeeds, consumers will pay the price.”
The other Democrat, Geoffrey Starks, was the last to vote on the deal. In September, Starks put out a statement calling on the FCC to delay any votes on the merger until Sprint could be fully investigated for allegedly misappropriating Lifeline subsidy funds for around 885,000 ineligible accounts. “There is no credible way that the merger before us can proceed until this Lifeline investigation is resolved and responsible parties are held accountable,” Starks said at the time.
Now, the T-Mobile-Sprint merger faces one more battle before they plan to close the deal. The FCC and DOJ are the only two federal agencies required to approve telecom deals before they can close, and the DOJ already gave the companies the thumbs-up in July. However, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general are still trying to block the deal through a multistate lawsuit, and representatives from the two companies said that they won’t close the merger until that is resolved.