Seize the Opportunity: Approve T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

Seize the Opportunity: Approve T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
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In our former role as chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we worked alongside the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that consumer access to secure, affordable broadband service was disseminated widely across the country. But technological growth and innovation in the communications sector has not stopped since we left Congress. In fact, it seems only to have accelerated, with the race to 5G deployment becoming one of the most pivotal issues of our time. The private sector has made enormous progress in developing the technology necessary for 5G in recent years; the Department of Justice and FCC's job, now, is to ensure competition is preserved and the benefits of such technologies reach all Americans, including those in rural areas, in an equitable manner.

A majority of the FCC took an important step in that direction last month in its endorsement of the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. The combined New T-Mobile will be better equipped to compete with the largest telecom firms and deliver quality service to consumers nationwide. In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai applauded new commitments by T-Mobile and Sprint, saying "two of the FCC's top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity. The commitments made today by T-Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives." The merger, as we have previously written, was already set to boost competition and be a boon for consumers—these new commitments only solidify the benefits the deal will provide.

Under the recently-filed guarantees, T-Mobile and Sprint have pledged to deploy a robust 5G network for all Americans, covering 97 percent of the nation's population within three years of the merger's close, and 99 percent within six. The combined company will not raise prices—including on 5G plans—for three years, and it will roll out an in-home broadband product to compete with those offered by cable companies.

Importantly, T-Mobile and Sprint are making real investments in America's rural communities. Per the FCC filing, the New T-Mobile's 5G network will cover 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent within six. Ninety-nine percent of Americans will have access to mobile broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps, and ninety percent will have access to 100 Mbps.

Having served both urban and rural communities ourselves, we've seen the digital divide up close and understand just how big of a deal these commitments are. Seventy-six percent of rural American households have no high-speed service available to them, or only one monopolistic provider. More than 83 percent of the 6.6 million American households that lack in-home connectivity above 25/3 Mbps are in rural communities. From sugar cane growers using drones and GPS technologies to improve their harvest in St. Martinville to Los Angeles schoolchildren making use of the latest online learning tools, improved wireless connectivity will benefit Americans across the country, no matter where they live.

T-Mobile's credentials as the "Un-carrier" are indisputable: It's done away with burdensome and restrictive two-year wireless service contracts, it's implemented unlimited-data plans, it's pioneered free international data roaming to present additional benefits to consumers. These innovations have compelled other mobile carriers to follow suit. In approving T-Mobile's merger with Sprint, regulators would be unleashing the potential of this supercharged new competitor, thus allowing it to take on AT&T and Verizon; leading the way yet again as we reach this pivotal 5G juncture.

As Chairman Pai concluded in his statement last week, the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint presents "a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans. We should seize this opportunity." We wholeheartedly agree. Now is the time for our government to approve this merger.

Billy Tauzin is a former U.S. representative from Louisiana's 3rd District and served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2001 to 2004. Henry A. Waxman served as chairman and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee while in his role as a U.S. Representative for California's 33rd District. Both authors currently serve as advisers to T-Mobile.

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