Dish wastes no time dialing up FCC commissioners

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Dish Network executives last week provided FCC commissioners with an overview of the terms it entered into regarding the DoJ's approval of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. (Dish Network)

A new filing with the Federal Communications Commission shows Dish Network wasted no time in explaining why its deal with Sprint, T-Mobile and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) solves the “competitive harms” that the T-Mobile/Sprint transaction posed in its original form.

In a July 30 ex parte filing (PDF), Dish disclosed that Chairman Charlie Ergen, EVP of Corporate Development Tom Cullen and SVP of Public Policy and Government Affairs Jeffrey Blum conducted telephone calls with Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks and Michael O’Rielly, along with their legal advisors, on Friday. The meetings occurred the same day the DoJ announced its settlement over the Sprint/T-Mobile transaction.

The conditions of the DoJ’s approval include facilitating Dish’s entry into the wireless market as a fourth nationwide facilities-based competitor. In addition to the DoJ remedy, Dish outlined the commitments it has made to the FCC regarding its 5G broadband deployment. “Taken together, these commitments and arrangements will accelerate Dish’s competitive entry into the wireless market, benefit consumers across the country, and promote America’s leadership in 5G,” Dish told the commission.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his support for the merger back in May, around the same time Commissioner Brendan Carr said he also supports the deal, a stance he reiterated last week. O’Rielly in a tweet indicated he’s inclined to support the deal, theoretically giving the deal a majority backing at the commission if put to a vote.   

Both Rosenworcel and Starks, the two Democrats on the commission, have called for public hearings on the proposal before the FCC acts. Rosenworcel also issued a statement on Friday saying she remains skeptical that the combination is good for consumers.

Dish’s desire to become a fourth facilities-based wireless competitor comes after years of acquiring spectrum and more recent efforts to actually build a nationwide Narrowband IoT network.

Older public filings show quite a bit changed over the weeks leading up to the settlement announcement. In a June 13 filing (PDF), Dish disclosed that its executives held a meeting with Pai, the DoJ’s Antitrust Division chief Makan Delrahim and Andrew Finch, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division. In that meeting, Dish discussed its opposition to the T-Mobile/Sprint merger as it was constructed at the time, the need for a minimum of four nationwide mobile network operators and the "impact of the proposed merger on Dish’s market entry and its wireless buildout plans."

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Earlier, Dish pointed (PDF) to comments made by Sprint executives about the competitive and financial challenges the company faces as a standalone company and compared that with statements made by the same and other executives to investors about the health of the company. Back then, Dish argued that parent SoftBank was more than capable of funding Sprint to enable it to compete.