Tag Archives: cpuc

Friends and foes of the T-Mobile/Sprint deal want changes to CPUC’s proposed approval

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile san francisco 18may2019

T-Mobile’s decision to ignore the California Public Utilities Commission and close its acquisition of Sprint without permission will result in at least some, and probably a lot, of revisions to the draft decision approving the deal that’s now waiting for a commission vote. Comments filed on Wednesday by past and present opponents of the merger don’t address T-Mobile’s regulatory insouciance – that’ll come later – but do suggest extensive changes to what’s already on the table.

Four of the five organisations that weighed in on the draft decision argued for tougher conditions, or for rejecting the merger altogether. The fifth said the CPUC was being too tough on T-Mobile.

The CPUC public advocates office (PAO) urged commissioners to kill the deal, saying that the thousands of pages of documents and hours upon hours of hearings did not produce enough evidence to show that the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is “in the public interest”, as state law requires. If commissioners go ahead and approve it, the PAO recommends tightening up some of the conditions and, particularly, adding more teeth to enforcement provisions. TURN, aka the Utility Reform Network, made similar points.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Greenlining Institute focused on concerns specific to their constituencies. CWA, which is the primary telecommunications union in California, also argues that the evidence in the record shows that the merger doesn’t serve the public interest, with particular attention to the impact on people who work for T-Mobile, Sprint and the sizeable ecosystem of companies that’s grown around them. Although it lays out a case for rejecting the merger outright, it instead asks for additional labor-related guarantees. Greenlining similarly points to a lack of attention the draft decision pays to communities of color, and recommends adding requirements aimed at fixing that problem.

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) advocated – mostly – on T-Mobile’s behalf. CETF originally opposed the deal, but decided to “enthusiastically and wholeheartedly support” it after bagging a $35 million pay off from T-Mobile. The one big point CETF made that won’t warm T-Mobile’s heart was a request for stricter CPUC enforcement of the deal it cut for the money, saying it’s “concerned that [T-Mobile and Sprint] may be tempted to not comply”.

Ya think?

As Greenlining pointed out in its comments, CETF’s contract with T-Mobile is “expressly contingent upon the CPUC’s approval of the Wireline Application”, which is the application that T-Mobile now wants to withdraw.

Comments on the proposed decision of administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer, 1 April 2020:
Joint Applicants (T-Mobile and Sprint)
CPUC Public Advocates Office
Communications Workers of America
TURN
Greenlining
California Emerging Technology Fund

TURN and Greenlining protest of Sprint’s CPCN relinquishment, 1 April 2020
CPUC Public Advocates Office, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020
Communications Workers of America, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile, Sprint ordered to halt merger in California, but don’t seem to care what CPUC thinks

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Caltrans flagger stop

T-Mobile and Sprint completed their merger yesterday morning, but they’ll have to wait at least a couple more weeks, and maybe longer, for a decision from the California Public Utilities Commission before they can begin combining their operations in California.

If.

If they pay any attention to an order issued yesterday afternoon by CPUC commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. Responding to a Tuesday night letter from T-Mobile’s then-COO and now CEO Michael Sievert, Rechtschaffen ruled…

[California] Public Utilities Code Section 854(a) states in relevant part that “[n]o person or corporation, whether or not organized under the laws of this state, shall merge, acquire, or control … either directly or indirectly, any public utility organized and doing business in this state without first securing authorization to do so from the commission.” Both Joint Applicants, T-Mobile and Sprint, have California subsidiaries that are public utility telephone corporations under state law, and subject to the jurisdiction of this agency. The merger of the companies’ operations in California is therefore subject to CPUC approval. Accordingly, Joint Applicants shall not begin merger of their California operations until after the CPUC issues a final decision on the pending applications.

There’s good reason to think the two companies will effectively ignore the order. In the letter, Sievert told Rechtschaffen and CPUC administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer that they “lack jurisdiction” over the merger, and he would close it without their blessing. Rechtschaffen is the “assigned commissioner” for the CPUC’s review, which means he oversees it, and Bemesderfer is managing it.

In lengthier comments filed yesterday, T-Mobile’s lawyers tried to offer a legal basis for that point of view, but Rechtschaffen is unconvinced, to say the least.

T-Mobile’s defiance is risky, as the company acknowledged yesterday in the fine print of its triumphal press release

There are several factors that could cause actual plans and results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to…the risk of litigation or regulatory actions, including litigation or actions that may arise from T-Mobile’s consummation of the business combination during the pendency of the California Public Utility Commission’s review of the business combination.

“Regulatory actions” will happen, beginning with the CPUC’s review of the merger, which is scheduled to go to a commission vote on 16 April 2020. Assuming it’s approved more or less as written, the draft of that decision imposes a long list of service and employment conditions on the combined company. Fines and other penalties are also possible, although that will take months, if not years, to sort out.

What is certain to follow, though, is litigation. T-Mobile says its mobile business isn’t governed by California law. Rechtschaffen says it is, and it’s a good bet his fellow commissioners agree. That dispute will have to be settled in a federal court.

Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling, T-Mobile/Sprint merger, 1 April 2020

T-Mobile letter informing CPUC of intent to complete merger, 31 March 2020

Comments on the proposed decision of administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer, 1 April 2020:
Joint Applicants (T-Mobile and Sprint)
CPUC Public Advocates Office
Communications Workers of America
TURN
Greenlining
California Emerging Technology Fund

TURN and Greenlining protest of Sprint’s CPCN relinquishment, 1 April 2020
CPUC Public Advocates Office, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020
Communications Workers of America, notice of ex parte meeting with CPUC president Marybel Batjer’s staff, 1 April 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile tells CPUC it “lacks jurisdiction” and should address its “deficiencies”, as Sprint deal closes without its permission

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

History of the World, Part 1 - Piss Boy

T-Mobile is doing what it planned to do all along: complete its acquisition of Sprint today, regardless of whether it has regulatory approval to do so from the California Public Utilities Commission. In a letter sent to the CPUC commissioner and the administrative law judge in charge of the merger review, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer Michael Sievert said he’s doing what he thinks he needs to do, and not only is the commission powerless to act but it should see the light and rubber stamp the deal…

Finally, as we have explained to the Commission previously, an April 1 close is critical to the parties, as accounting and financial reporting needs, and the imperative for accuracy of such reporting, significantly limit the available closing dates for the merger, and delaying beyond April 1 would result in substantial — and ever-increasing — harm and risks to [T-Mobile and Sprint].

Notwithstanding our abiding view that the Commission lacks jurisdiction over this transaction, we have fully cooperated in the CPUC’s 20-month review process. T-Mobile stands ready to honor the nearly 50 voluntary California-specific commitments it has made in connection with the deal. However, notwithstanding our appreciation of the proposed decision’s recognition of the many benefits of the merger, it contains a number of obligations that in addition to exceeding the CPUC’s jurisdiction are not supported by the record, are practically impossible, are unfair and discriminatory to T-Mobile vs our competitors – including the entrenched incumbents, and/or are anti-competitive. Accordingly, [T-Mobile and Sprint] urge you to revise the proposed decision to address those deficiencies and to proceed with a vote on the modified proposed decision to close the proceedings at the Commission’s April 16 meeting as scheduled.

Sievert opened the letter by blaming his defiance on the covid–19 emergency, but went on to justify it by airing the same arguments T-Mobile and its local lawyers have been making for the past 20 months, long before the pandemic began. T-Mobile has to get about the “important work” of integrating networks so it can deliver “massive benefits” to Californians, he said.

The question now is how, or if, the CPUC or California attorney general Xavier Becerra will respond, and what happens to the truckload of “voluntary California-specific commitments” that T-Mobile dangled in arguments and testimony or the sterner conditions in the draft decision that’s so upsetting to Sievert. Saying you “stand ready” to keep a promise isn’t the same thing as promising to keep it.

Those conditions include requiring T-Mobile to increase its workforce in California by 1,000 jobs, keep its promise to compete for in-home customers, and offer better broadband service in rural communities.

We might get a peek at what’s to come later today, when the first round of public comments on the proposed decision are due and challengers can have their say. A posse from the CPUC’s public advocates office, the Communications Workers of America and TURN made the rounds of commissioners’ staff last month, as did T-Mobile and its helpmate, the California Emerging Technology Fund. Those opponents urged complete rejection of the merger. It’s a fair bet they’ll repeat that advice in their comments, as well as offer some polite suggestions for disemboweling this morning’s transaction.

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile goes nuclear in California, preps to close Sprint deal without CPUC’s blessing

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Slim pickens rides the bomb

T-Mobile and Sprint asked to withdraw their application for California Public Utilities Commission approval of the wireline elements of their merger agreement yesterday. At the same time, Sprint sent the CPUC a letter “relinquishing its [California] certificate of public Convenience and necessity” (CPCN). That sets the stage for the two companies to close their deal without CPUC permission, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, which is the day they’ve been targeting all along. It also provides a basis for challenging, if not ignoring completely, any conditions the CPUC might impose on them, such as those proposed in a draft decision that commissioners are scheduled to consider on 16 April 2020.

T-Mobile and Sprint have two requests pending with the CPUC. They’re asking for permission to transfer Sprint’s wireline CPCN – its authorisation to operate as a telephone company in California – to T-Mobile, and they’ve notified the CPUC that they plan to combine their mobile wireless operations. The commission bundled those two matters into a single case, something that T-Mobile (and Sprint, but it’s T-Mobile running the show) objected to all along.

The CPUC’s jurisdiction over the wireline asset transfer is very clear, but it is uncontroversial. The far bigger mobile side of the deal is what opponents – including California attorney general Xavier Becerra – are worried about and what the proposed conditions directly address.

The CPUC’s authority over a mobile carrier is murky at best. Mobile licenses are issued by the Federal Communications Commission, which approved the transfer. Carriers have to register their federal licenses with the CPUC, but arguably – at least if you’re T-Mobile – that’s just an informational filing, with no state-level regulatory review needed or allowed.

T-Mobile’s lawyers have been making that argument all along, and threatened more than once to go ahead with the merger without waiting for a decision from the CPUC. Taking the wireline issue off the table will make that far easier to do.

T-Mobile can’t simply say never mind. The CPUC can deny, or ignore, the motion to withdraw the wireline transfer application, and there’s potentially months of wrangling ahead over Sprint’s abandonment of its CPCN. But once the transaction is closed, it’ll be difficult to unwind, even if yesterday’s gambit is ultimately rejected by a court. We might know as soon as tomorrow whether the companies will try to cowboy it out and complete the merger while the CPUC is chewing it over.

Motion of Joint Applicants to Withdraw Wireline Application, 30 March 2020
Sprint Communications Company – Tier 1 Advice Letter Relinquishing Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, 30 March 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

California’s mountain counties get failing broadband grades, urban areas top the report card

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

California broadband infrastructure report card map 24mar2020 625

The worst broadband infrastructure in California is, not surprisingly, found in mountain counties at the north end of the state. Trinity and Siskiyou counties both get “F” grades for broadband infrastructure, with a numerical score of dead zero. Sierra County likewise gets an “F”, with a numerical score of 0.03 that’s effectively zero. It is also the county with the highest percentage of population – 88% – without any access to wireline broadband service. It’s a serious problem for rural residents as business, education, health care and education move almost exclusively online during the covid–19 lockdown.

As the map above and the tables below show, the best broadband infrastructure in California can be found in San Francisco and Alameda County, and in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and it generally gets worse the farther you get from those two hubs.

The Worst

County            Broadband Report Card GradeGPAPercent of Population at Zero service
TrinityF0.0083%
SiskiyouF0.0017%
HumboldtF0.0115%
MariposaF0.0124%
ModocF0.0150%
LassenF0.0256%
SierraF0.0388%
AlpineF0.0483%
PlumasF0.1335%
InyoF0.1716%

The Best

County            Broadband Report Card GradeGPAPercent of Population at Zero service
AlamedaB-2.773%
San FranciscoB-2.731%
San MateoC+2.631%
Contra CostaC+2.401%
SacramentoC+2.302%
Santa ClaraC+2.273%
Los AngelesC2.091%
OrangeC1.973%
San JoaquinC-1.895%
StanislausC-1.884%

The grades are based on a methodology I first developed in 2013 for the East Bay Broadband Consortium, and have since been updating on a statewide basis for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and other such regional organisations. It uses the broadband speed and technology claims that Internet service providers submit to the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Communications Commission every year – the most recent data set is current as of 31 December 2018. The underlying data are not very accurate, but it is precise in the sense that companies tend to be consistent about the way they exaggerate coverage. That makes it useful for comparative purposes, which is what the California Broadband Infrastructure Report Card is all about.

The best broadband infrastructure in California is found in the Bay Area and Sacramento, and the Los Angeles/Orange County core. Those two counties straddle California’s “C” average. The large share of the state’s population those counties represent means what’s available to people there is going to look a lot like what’s available to the average Californian.

San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties also made the top 10 due to upgrades by AT&T, which claims to have built fiber to the premise systems in about 16% of the census blocks (but not necessarily throughout whole census blocks) in those two counties, and Vast Network’s middle mile fiber infrastructure, which runs through a lot of census blocks but isn’t available to homes or most businesses. It’s similar story in Fresno County. The grades reflect infrastructure deployments rather than service availability, so for a lot of Central Valley communities it’s water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.

California Broadband Infrastructure Report Card, 24 March 2020
Central Coast Broadband Consortium wireline broadband availability analysis (22 March 2020 revision), per 31 December 2018 data
Central Coast Broadband Consortium Broadband Infrastructure Grading Methodology, 20 March 2020
Achieving Ubiquitous Broadband Coverage in the Monterey Bay Region, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, November 2018

CPUC extends CASF grant deadline, also orders telecoms companies to disclose covid-19 response plans

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Broadband companies will get an extra month to submit applications for broadband infrastructure grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). Originally, the proposals were due next week, on 1 April 2020. That deadline is now 4 May 2020, and the subsequent timeline for challenges and decisions also bumped by five weeks, per a memo from California Public Utilities Commission director Alice Stebbins.

It’s a necessary step (and – full disclosure – one I advocated for). As the corona virus lockdown continues, residential broadband service is the critical link that connects Californians to their jobs, businesses, education and health services, and helps keep them from going stir crazy. CASF infrastructure project proposals have taken a back seat to the frontline tasks of keeping Internet access running and scaling it up to meet ballooning demand.

The divide between California’s digital haves and have nots is starkly illuminated by the emergency. A month to rethink priorities and figure out how best to target those gaps is both necessary and welcome. The memo also reminds us that a second CASF application window is possible. A decision on that will come by 17 June 2020, when we will have a much better idea of the full extent of the current crisis.

In another action, the CPUC ordered executives of major telephone, cable and mobile broadband companies to provide…

Your company’s policies for responding to and continuing operations through the current spread of COVID–19. This should include policies relating to providing safe working environments for your employees and business continuity plans for continuing all business and service delivery operations in the event of further community transmission.

Among the specific items they have to address are credit and collection practices and call center management. As I learned the hard way this weekend, AT&T slashed technical support and other customer service operations (someone needs to explain teleworking to them). It will be interesting to learn if other industry players did the same. The companies are supposed to provide a public version of their filing, but they’ll also be allowed to keep some information confidential. They’re supposed to respond by Friday.

California’s broadband gaps affect millions as corona virus lockdown continues

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

San benito pole route 13apr2019

At least 1.5 million Californians – 4% of the state’s population – cannot get wireline broadband in their homes, as the second week of the corona virus lock down begins. That’s what the most recently published broadband availability reports filed with the California Public Utilities Commission show. Nearly twice that many – 2.8 million people, 8% of the population – don’t have access to primary wireline service that delivers 100 Mbps download/20 Mbps upload speeds, the minimum service level needed for in-home work, education, health care and entertainment. The dead spots are disproportionately found in rural communities.

That’s the top line result from the number crunching I’ve been doing, as part of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium’s (CCBC) efforts over the past few days. Like other regional broadband consortia around California, the CCBC is working to identify broadband access gaps and resources to fill them for the 40 million Californians ordered to stay at home. The raw data are the broadband service claims filed by primary wireline Internet service providers – the companies that own the copper and fiber – as of 31 December 2018, which is the most recent data set available. I ran the data for the 58 counties in California, with breakouts for cities, unincorporated communities (AKA census designated places) and tribal areas – it’s pretty much as easy to do it for all 58 counties as it is to do it for one (or the CCBC’s three – San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties).

The analysis includes:

  • Infrastructure grade (A, B, C, D, F). The grading methodology is here.
  • Median household income estimates.
  • Population, percentage of population, number of housing units and percentage of housing units, as of 2019 estimates, with zero access to wireline broadband service.
  • Population, percentage of population, number of housing units and percentage of housing units able to access primary wireline broadband service at 6 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload, 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, 100 Mbps/20 Mbps, 1,000 Mbps/500 Mbps.

The data is not particularly accurate, as is widely acknowledged, but it is precise in the sense that the inaccuracies tend to be consistent across a provider’s data set. It is sufficiently precise for the purpose of comparing one place to another, and for generally assessing broadband availability in a given county, city or other area. I’ll be writing more about it in the coming days, and welcome any ideas or critiques.

Central Coast Broadband Consortium wireline broadband availability analysis (22 March 2020 revision), per 31 December 2018 data
Central Coast Broadband Consortium Broadband Infrastructure Grading Methodology, 20 March 2020
Achieving Ubiquitous Broadband Coverage in the Monterey Bay Region, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, November 2018

CPUC says telcos, cable companies, mobile carriers shouldn’t cut off customers during corona virus crisis

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Corona virus

Edit: The title of this post originally contained a (serious) typo. It’s fixed now. I can blame jet lag but, really, sometimes my fingers don’t do what I think they’re doing. Sorry about that.

Communications companies should declare “moratoriums on disconnections” in California, according to a letter sent yesterday by the California Public Utilities Commission to executives of landline telcos, mobile carriers and cable companies. It warns telecoms companies that the “CPUC plans to take action to provide emergency customer protection measures for customers in California to prevent disconnections for unpaid bills” during the corona virus emergency.

The warning letter leave a big question unanswered: what sort of communications service is affected?

The language is largely identical to letters sent to electric and water company executives, and is directed at “utility companies (electric, gas, water, sewer) and communications providers”. It refers to an executive order from California governor Gavin Newsom which asks the CPUC to “implement customer service protections for critical utilities, including but not limited to electric, gas, water, Internet, landline telephone, and cell phone service”. But it doesn’t define “communications provider” or mention specific services.

Two CPUC decisions from last year are cited in the letter. The first requires electric and gas companies to “suspend disconnection for nonpayment” during emergencies, and water and sewer companies to minimise disconnections. The second decision is aimed at telecoms companies that provide subsidised Lifeline service or access to 911 centers – telephone service in other words – but it doesn’t specifically require suspending customer disconnections for nonpayment. It applies to legacy wireline companies like AT&T and Frontier, as well as cable companies and mobile carriers.

Presumably whatever emergency decision is eventually approved by the commission will be more tightly written. Although there’s little doubt that the CPUC has jurisdiction over access to 911 service, its power to tell cable, telephone and wireless companies how to otherwise manage customer accounts is debatable. It has vestigial authority over legacy wireline telco service, but even that might not be enough to keep the diminishing number of plain old telephone service customers connected if they don’t pay their bills. Cable companies and mobile carriers usually take the position that the CPUC can’t regulate their consumer services, as do telcos when voice over Internet service or broadband service is involved.

Even so, the letter and the eventual decision might have the desired effect. Telecoms companies are voluntarily signing up to consumer-friendly suggestions made by the Federal Communications Commission, and they might do the same with the CPUC’s measures, while making it clear they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

CPUC plans to police Sprint merger requirements, but T-Mobile might not play along

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Jack webb 625

Improved mobile broadband coverage, workforce increases and other California-specific requirements proposed in a draft California Public Utilities Commission decision as conditions for approving the T-Mobile/Sprint merger are meaningless without enforcement. The proposed decision, published last week, takes a big step towards putting real teeth behind those requirements, but that won’t guarantee compliance by the new, bulked up T-Mobile.

The conditions, which are largely intended to fix some of the worst anti-competitive effects of the deal, include hiring an “independent monitor” to closely watch T-Mobile over the next ten years. That’s a welcome change from recent practice, which left enforcement of conditions imposed on major telecoms mergers to third parties, which often have a greater interest in maintaining cash flow from the companies they’re supposedly bird dogging, or to regular CPUC procedures, which are more geared toward punishing violations rather than preventing them in the first place.

Whether this new approach will work is an open question, though. Although the CPUC’s proposed decision makes a strong case for its authority to, in effect, regulate the behavior of a mobile carrier, T-Mobile is equally adamant that no such power exists. The company has always framed its promise of the amazing wonderfulness of the Sprint deal as a voluntary commitment, rather than something it can be held accountable for by a state agency. There’s nothing preventing T-Mobile from accepting the CPUC’s permission to acquire Sprint, while ignoring everything else. Such a move would likely lead to years of litigation at the CPUC and, eventually, state and federal courts, but that’s just a cost of doing business for a big, multinational telecoms company.

The first indication of T-Mobile’s true intentions could come when (assuming the draft decision is approved by commissioners in April) the CPUC tries to hire the independent monitor. Supposedly, the cost of that person (or firm) will be paid by T-Mobile. We’ll know then if it intends to pay any attention at all to the CPUC’s requirements.

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.

Becerra lines up with CPUC on mitigating “anticompetitive” effects of T-Mobile/Sprint deal

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

A proposed California Public Utilities Commission decision published on Wednesday and scheduled for a vote on 16 April 2020 would allow T-Mobile to take over Sprint, and become the dominant mobile carrier in many Californian communities. The merger “is presumably anticompetitive” in at least some of those areas, according to advice from California attorney general Xavier Becerra requested and received by the CPUC…

We find that T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint will likely harm competition in 18 specific California markets for retail mobile wireless telecommunications services, resulting in higher prices and fewer choices for California consumers. However, certain conditions could be developed with the potential to alleviate in part some of the harms.

Becerra agreed to a separate settlement with T-Mobile that covers politically popular items like low cost mobile service plans and benefits for schools, but left the heavy regulatory lifting to the CPUC. The conditions proposed by the draft CPUC decision, which include broadband buildout and availability requirements and an increase of 1,000 employees in T-Mobile’s Californian workforce, track with Becerra’s advice. He wanted the CPUC to impose…

Coverage and speed requirements as measured via drive-by tests; clear commitments with respect to LifeLine service; enhanced commitments to public safety; commitments to maintain and increase California jobs; monetary penalties for failing to meet these conditions; an independent monitor to evaluate compliance; and the ability for the CPUC and the California Attorney General to enforce compliance in a California court under California law.

An agreement between T-Mobile and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) which outlined weaker and vaguer coverage and service requirements, and included a $35 million payoff to CETF in exchange for its support of the merger, was not particularly useful, Becerra said…

While the CETF Agreement could be beneficial to California consumers, the inability of CETF to meaningfully enforce the terms of the agreement renders many of these benefits illusory. T-Mobile and CETF failed to follow any of the procedural requirements of Article 12 (Settlements) of the California Public Utilities Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (Rules), which requires notice of the settlement, public settlement conferences, reasonableness requirements, and a finding from the Commission that the settlement is in the public interest…

Because the CETF Agreement is merely “a common position” by CETF and T-Mobile, it gives CETF minimal ability to find relief if T-Mobile’s view of the “common position” turns out to be in dispute.

Becerra also expressed doubt about whether DISH will, as it kinda sorta said it would, build out 5G mobile infrastructure in rural California. “DISH testified that it intended to focus on large urban markets, which makes Los Angeles a likely beneficiary of any DISH network, but not Imperial County”, the opinion said.

Proposed Decision Granting T-Mobile Application and Approving Wireless Transfer Subject to Conditions, 11 March 2020
Attachments 1 to 5
Opinion of the Attorney General on Competitive Effects of Proposed Merger of T-Mobile USA, Inc. And Sprint Communications Company L.P. (attachment 5 to proposed CPUC decision, dated 11 March 2020)
Settlement Agreement between T-Mobile and the State of California, 9 March 2020

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.