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President Trump could be really bad news for T-Mobile

Published Nov 9th, 2016 3:49PM EST
Trump Election

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While all of the country is coming to terms with what happened last night, T-Mobile CEO John Legere has reason to be feeling particularly woozy. You see, not so long ago, Legere and Trump got into a rather unsavoury Twitter war, and T-Mobile could well feel the consequences.

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Here’s how the conversation went a year ago, when Trump was still a fringe candidate for the presidency:

When all this happened, it was mostly a funny Twitter spat between two characters who are famed for having it out on social media. You could still look at it as an amusing joke that will have no real consequences, given how many people have had Twitter arguments with Trump by this point.

But in doing that, you’d be forgetting some very important points. Trump has proven himself more than capable of hanging onto a grudge. Particularly when it comes to public humiliation from a well-known businessperson, Trump is not that likely to forget what happened. And now he can do something about it.

As a business, T-Mobile is subject to the usual interactions with the government, all of which Trump could theoretically use to get back at Legere. But as a telecoms operator, it’s unusually affected by the FCC, which has already shown a willingness to fine T-Mobile for stepping out of line.

The Federal Communications Commission is led by a a Chairman who, like other federal positions, is appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. The current FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, is an Obama nominee who has shown a willingness to intervene in the industry, much to the dislike of Republicans. He’s also a card-carrying Democrat, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him replaced by a Trump-picked candidate.

And yes, the FCC has significant power. Mobile networks have recently been innovating with new data plans that zero-rate some data, something that is right on the edge of breaching net neutrality, and thus subject to scrutiny by the government. T-Mobile is the most invested in zero-rated plans, and has pushed the hardest through its Binge On program.

In other words, it’s easy to see Trump specifically appointing people to FCC positions to act against T-Mobile (and coincidentally handicap the entire telecoms industry), just because John Legere annoyed Donald Trump on Twitter last year. It’s certain or even likely to happen — and remember, Congress still has a large say in all this — but tell me it’s out of the realm of possibility. This is the reality now.

And in case you think I’m joking, Legere has certainly changed his tune.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.