T-Mobile CEO John Legere and President and COO Mike Sievert were busy talking with FCC commissioners shortly after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week circulated a recommendation that the full commission give its blessing to the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint.
The calls are not exactly surprising but noteworthy. According to an ex parte filing (PDF), Legere had a phone call with Pai on August 15, the same day Sievert held separate calls with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, the two Democrats on the commission.
The day previously, Pai shared with his colleagues a draft order that would approve, subject to conditions, the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint.
On Friday, Legere held a call with Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and that was followed up with a call to fellow Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr on Monday. Carr has publicly stated his support for the deal while O’Rielly has been less public about where he stands, saying he wanted to review the record, although he did tweet in the general affirmative back in May.
While it’s unknown what exactly was said during these calls, the ex parte filing indicates that the T-Mobile executives referenced the draft order on circulation and urged the commission to move expeditiously to approve the license transfers and “recognize the many benefits flowing from the transaction that the Applicants have detailed in the record.”
The executives also noted that they’re eager to get started “standing up the New T-Mobile and building its world-leading 5G network.” And they stressed—again, unsurprisingly—that there’s no need for an additional round of comments. Both Rosenworcel and Starks have said they think the deal, especially with the proposed changes brought about with the addition of Dish Network into the settlement, deserves a dedicated public comment period.
The FCC’s draft order analyzes the proposed merger and addresses certain “extensions, commitments and modifications to DISH’s spectrum holdings to effectuate its deployment of a nationwide 5G network,” according to the FCC. The order finds that Dish’s planned 5G deployment, in connection with its acquisition of Sprint’s Boost Mobile assets, would be in the public interest.
On Friday, eight Democratic senators sent a letter to Pai calling for the agency to issue a public notice and seek public comment on the merger in light of the changes endorsed by the Department of Justice. The senators include Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey, Tammy Baldwin, Tom Udall, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Prior to that letter, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, as well as the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) had called for a public comment cycle. That prompted a formal request (PDF) from Sprint and T-Mobile for the FCC to reject those calls, arguing that multiple rounds of comments already have been submitted into the record, which they said is “comprehensive and complete.”