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Sprint battles against AT&T/T-Mobile deal at state level

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In addition to lobbying Congress and federal regulators against AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is taking its fight to state regulators. Sprint on Monday filed a request with the West Virginia Public Service Commission to investigate and block the deal.

"Clearly the interest of the public in this state will be adversely affected by the proposed merger because it is anticompetitive and will hurt consumers by raising prices, restricting innovation and limiting choices of wireless providers," Sprint wrote in its filing. The carrier said the West Virginia Commission had a duty to make sure deals do not harm the public.

In addition to federal regulators, state regulators often have to sign off on major deals such at this one. Sprint expects to file similar petitions with other states. AT&T has asked West Virginia to approve the deal, and has argued that the acquisition will allow it to bring LTE service to more customers in West Virginia than it would have been able to do without the deal.

"AT&T is trying to bring the latest and fastest mobile Internet service to most of the citizens of West Virginia.  Since Sprint is trying to stop that, we hope state officials will ask Sprint what its own plans are for bringing LTE speeds to the people of West Virginia," J. Michael Schweder, AT&T's president of the Mid-Atlantic region, said in a statement. "We suspect Sprint either has no such plan, or that its own plans pale in comparison to AT&T's.  In either case, we're confident West Virginians will see Sprint's filing for what it is--a cynical effort to hurt a competitor, even if the ones truly hurt are the many people of West Virginia who would be denied the fast mobile Internet speeds they need and want."

Sprint fired back with a statement of its own later on Wednesday. "What is AT&T afraid of in West Virginia? All Sprint has asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission to do is to hold a public hearing about their planned takeover of T-Mobile. Is AT&T afraid of what such a hearing would uncover?" said Sprint spokesman John Taylor. "Consumers in West Virginia deserve to know what the T-Mobile takeover means for wireless prices, handset selection and mobile broadband coverage. We are hopeful that the West Virginia Public Service Commission will give consumers across the Mountain State that opportunity."

The FCC has started its review of the deal, which is expected to take at least a year. According to a Bloomberg report, the Department of Justice has extended its review of the deal via new requests for information, a move that could allow antitrust regulators to extend the review indefinitely.

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Kansas City Star article
- see this Washington Business Journal article
- see this AT&T blog post

Related Articles:
Report: Justice Department extends review of AT&T/T-Mobile deal
AT&T files with FCC to acquire T-Mobile
Sprint blasts AT&T over T-Mobile deal, claims 'false' allegations
FCC sets wheels in motion to review AT&T/T-Mobile deal
FCC's Copps pushes back against AT&T/T-Mobile deal
AT&T's Stephenson: T-Mobile deal likely will require divestitures
State attorneys general take aim at AT&T/T-Mobile deal
Sprint announces plan to attack AT&T/T-Mobile deal

Article updated May 4 with statement from Sprint.