T-Mobile/Sprint merger gains a few additional supporters

T-Mobile store (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)
T-Mobile and Sprint are gaining a few additional supporters to their proposed combination. (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)

As their proposed merger inches forward, T-Mobile and Sprint have gained a few additional supporters. Key voices of support and opposition could indicate how difficult the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless network operators will have to battle to gain approval from the FCC, Department of Justice and other regulators.

The most notable group to come out in support of the merger this week is the National Taxpayers Union. “Our country is at a crossroads: we can either work to solidify America’s standing as a leader in technological innovation, or allow the status quo and its challenges with providing underserved communities digital access to persist,” Pete Sepp, president of the organization, wrote in a filing with the FCC (PDF).

Other organizations that came out in support of the merger recently include the Lincoln Independent Business Association (PDF), the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce (PDF) and the Olathe Chamber of Commerce (PDF). The latest round of public support arrived a few weeks after Dish Network, Frontier Communications, Windstream Services, Altice, C Spire and the Communications Workers of America all filed their opposition to the proposed merger with the FCC during the summer.

As with any megamerger of this size, there are multiple moving parts and ongoing research into the scope and impact of potential changes to the market. On that front, AT&T, Comcast, Charter Communications and others are beginning to comply with the FCC’s request for additional information related to the merger, specifically as it relates to churn, network engineering, financials, MVNO agreements, spectrum plans and the transfer of licenses and authorizations. A legal counsel with AT&T filed a notice with the FCC (PDF) to disclose an ex parte discussion it had last week regarding the agency’s request for more details.

Finally, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has amended its planned hearing on the merger by widening the scope of its review and slightly updating the schedule of forthcoming hearings. The “evidentiary hearing” was initially posted for public dissemination last week, but the CPUC says the first memo defining the scope of its review was sent out prematurely.

The net result of the change is that CPUC’s investigation is “even wider than before” and “won’t be limited to a few specific and largely technical issues as T-Mobile and Sprint had hoped,” according to Steve Blum, president at Tellus Venture Associations.