FILE - T-Mobile

The $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint likely will proceed after receiving the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero.

The approval was rendered Tuesday despite 13 state and District of Columbia attorneys general filing a complaint to block the merger last July. Among them was Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The attorney generals registered the opposition after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the merger between the nation’s third- and fourth-largest telecommunications companies.

“We cannot sit idly by while two of the biggest companies in the country attempt to join forces, eliminating competition and driving up costs for consumers,” Nessel said in a statement last summer. “Once again, the American consumer comes second to big business for the Trump administration.”

Along with Michigan, the coalition of attorneys general included New York, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The DOJ approved the deal with conditions, among them requiring Sprint to divest its Boost prepaid subscription service as well as a portion of its wireless spectrum to the DISH satellite TV service.

“I’m pleased that Judge Marrero has denied the attempt of a minority of states to second-guess the considered decisions of the Department of Justice and the FCC to allow the T-Mobile/Sprint merger to be consummated,” Free State Foundation President Randolph May said in a statement.

“In comments before the FCC and before the District Court, I explained that, all things considered, the merger was likely to increase competition and overall consumer welfare not only in today’s wireless marketplace but in the broader telecommunications marketplace as well.”

Nessel said in an email to The Center Square said that the views of the attorneys general who oppose the merger has not changed.

"It is anticompetitive in nature and will likely result in higher costs to our residents," she asserted. "This decision accommodates big business to the detriment of the American consumer.”

May said that the coalition of attorneys general failed to make the case that the merger would weaken market competition in the mobile phone sector.

“The District Court properly recognized that the states bore the burden of persuasion of showing that the proposed merger would substantially lessen competition in the market for retail mobile wireless telecommunications services and that they failed to carry this evidentiary burden,” he said.

“We are reviewing the decision. It is certainly a victory for consumers that this merger was permitted and the states' lawsuit to stop it failed,” Jim Lakely, director of communications for The Heartland Institute, said in an email to The Center Square.  

“Antitrust law should be applied in only rare cases when consumer harm is clear and demonstrable,” Lakely said. “That was never the case in the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger. And the longer it takes for that deal to close, ironically, the more potential harm will befall consumers.”

  

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.