DISH will be grilled on mobile plans for California at CPUC hearing

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Dish kangaroos ces 5jan2015

DISH is the sole focus of a California Public Utilities Commission hearing next week. Administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer decided yesterday that there’s enough evidence in hand for the CPUC to evaluate nearly all of the issues surrounding the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Nearly.

In his ruling, Bemesderfer mused…

What then do we need to hear testimony about? The significant change in the terms of the proposed merger that has occurred over the past months is the addition of DISH as a proposed fourth facilities-based wireless carrier, replacing Sprint. The hearings will focus on the impacts of this change on California consumers and the potential competitive harms of the proposed merger.

He didn’t say who would have to testify, but some of the questions he posed are clearly for DISH, such as how the deal to spin off T-Mobile and Sprint customers, employees and assets to DISH will “affect customer service, consumer protections and privacy rights of California consumers” and what happens to “pre-paid customers with incompatible handsets when they are divested to DISH”.

Other issues involve all three companies, such as the continued availability of low income plans and Lifeline subsidies.

But the number one question is whether or not the new and improved DISH will “substantially alleviate any competitive harms of the proposed merger”. That brings in a wide range of possible witnesses, including from an economist hired by the CPUC’s public advocates office, Lee Selwyn, who is not a fan. The squishy role assigned to DISH and its ability to fulfil it “offers no assurance that its presence will work to discipline its larger rivals to any significant degree”, he said in testimony filed last week.

The hearing is scheduled for next Thursday and Friday in San Francisco. Assuming there are no surprises, and particularly no new document dumps, the CPUC’s review of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is still on track for a commission vote, one way or the other, sometime in February.