From the very first moment that T-Mobile and Sprint made their merger official, it’s been clear that the government will be the biggest obstacle to getting the deal done. The initial press release was obviously crafted with securing regulatory approval the primary mission, because the Department of Justice is certain to be interested.

But before we can even get to the Department of Justice phase, Democratic lawmakers are already calling for more information. In a letter sent this afternoon, Rep. Frank Pallone and Mike Doyle have written to the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, to request a hearing about the merger.

“As the Committee with primary jurisdiction over the wireless industry, we have a responsibility to understand the potential effect of this merger on consumers, workers, and the communications market,” the Congressmen wrote. “The transaction would directly affect the 120 million wireless subscribers for the two companies, but it would also trigger ripple effects for everyone who uses a mobile phone. Considering that the combined company would be overwhelmingly controlled by foreign entities, this transaction also raises significant questions about foreign control of major players in the U.S. wireless market.”

T-Mobile and Sprint have been going to lengths to explain that the Un-carrier mission won’t change, and that actually, synergies between T-Mobile and Sprint will lower costs and thus prices. But history tells us it likely won’t work out that way.

With T-Mobile and Sprint merging, that takes the number of wireless networks down from four to three. T-Mobile claimed on its conference call today that it really has eight competitors, but that includes companies like Comcast that buy service from Verizon or AT&T. In reality, the wireless industry is already highly concentrated, and merging its two smallest players just makes things worse.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairmen Walden and Blackburn:

We write to request that the Energy and Commerce Committee schedule a hearing to review the proposed merger between T-Mobile US (T-Mobile) and Sprint Corporation (Sprint). As the Committee with primary jurisdiction over the wireless industry, we have a responsibility to understand the potential effect of this merger on consumers, workers, and the communications market.

T-Mobile has entered into a definitive agreement to pay approximately $59 billion to purchase Sprint, thereby creating a combined company worth about $146 billion. The merger would create a new wireless behemoth by shrinking the number of nationwide wireless providers from four to three. The transaction would directly affect the 120 million wireless subscribers for the two companies, but it would also trigger ripple effects for everyone who uses a mobile phone. Considering that the combined company would be overwhelmingly controlled by foreign entities, this transaction also raises significant questions about foreign control of major players in the U.S. wireless market.

This Committee has spent significant time studying the overhaul in the wireless market as it transitions to fifth-generation (5G) infrastructure. We have heard how 5G technology is necessary for new connected services and to deliver high-definition video over wireless networks. And we have learned that wireless networks are unlikely to build into many unserved areas without further government investment such as that authorized in our LIFT America Act.

Yet, we have not held a single hearing to examine the state of competition as the industry makes this change or how a loss of a competitor could affect consumers or workers. For instance, both T-Mobile and Sprint have already made significant commitments to invest in new infrastructure in 5G technologies. Yet, reports indicate that as many as 35,000 cell sites will be abandoned as part of this deal. The public deserves to understand whether further consolidation will speed up or slow down that deployment and what the change will do for American workers. Just as urgently, the American people want to know what a transaction such as this will do to wireless prices.

Finally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pointed to competition in the communications market as justification for many of its efforts to eliminate consumer protections such as net neutrality. While we do not agree that this rationale has ever made sense, certainly this Committee has an obligation to take a fresh look at the FCC’s actions in light of this and other recent—proposed communications mergers. For those reasons, we request that the Energy and Commerce Committee schedule a hearing to review the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.

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