Tag Archives: sprint

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.

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.

CPUC proposes requiring faster rural broadband, wider coverage, more California jobs to approve T-Mobile/Sprint deal

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile san francisco 18may2019

T-Mobile must keep the broadband availability and pricing promises it made, in order to win approval of its merger with Sprint from the California Public Utilities Commission. That’s assuming the commission adopts the proposed decision published yesterday by administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer. As drafted, the decision would bless the deal but impose conditions that were pulled from commitments T-Mobile made directly to the CPUC during the course of the review, and to federal agencies and private organisations.

Improved broadband service is a key condition. T-Mobile would have to upgrade and expand broadband availability over the next 10 years, reaching 91% of Californians with at least 50 Mbps download speeds by the end of 2023 and building to 100 Mbps service availability to 99% of the population by the end of 2026. Within that, T-Mobile will have to be able to serve 81% of rural Californians with 50 Mbps download speeds by the end of 2023, increasing to 96% by 2030, with 90% able to access 100 Mbps service then.

T-Mobile will also have to live up to its claim that it’ll compete for in-home customers…

New T-Mobile shall offer in-home broadband service wherever 5G service is available. Within 3 years of the close of the merger, T-Mobile shall have in-home broadband service available to at least 912,000 California households, of which at least 58,000 shall be rural. Within 6 years of the close of the merger, T-Mobile shall have in-home broadband service available to at least 2.3 million California households, of which at least 123,000 shall be rural. There will be an affordable plan offering that is priced substantially less than other available in-home broadband service, with no contract, no equipment charges, no installation charges, and no surprises.

Job promises will also have to be kept, without weaseling the numbers

New T-Mobile shall have a net increase in jobs in California, such that the number of full time and full-time equivalent New T-Mobile employees in the State of California at three years after the close of the transaction shall be at least 1,000 greater than the total number of full-time and full-time equivalent employees of Sprint, Assurance Wireless and T-Mobile in the State of California as of the date of the Transaction closing.

The proposed decision also has the CPUC hiring, and T-Mobile paying for, a person (or perhaps, company) to continually monitor compliance with all the conditions. T-Mobile would also have to regularly submit data and reports detailing its efforts.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra also announced a settlement with T-Mobile yesterday. The agreement puts additional California-specific obligations on T-Mobile.

The draft CPUC decision doesn’t directly address anti-trust issues generally, nor does it have anything specific to say about what DISH might or might not do with the assets it will get from T-Mobile. Those are federal problems…

We accept the conclusion of the [federal justice department] that creating a fourth national carrier will over time offset, at the national level, the loss of competition resulting from T-Mobile’s purchase of Sprint. In reaching this conclusion, we note that it accords with the February 11, 2020 decision of the federal district court in the Southern District of New York finding in favor of defendant wireless companies in the anti-trust action brought by a consortium of states.

The 20-day public comment period on the draft is now open. Assuming there are no further glitches, the CPUC will take up the proposed decision at its 16 April 2020 meeting.

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.

T-Mobile might have to live up to its own hype to gain California’s approval for Sprint deal

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile 5g small towns 6jan2020

While the California Public Utilities Commission drafts its decision on whether to allow the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, any outsider’s opinion on what the verdict will be is pure speculation.

So I’ll speculate.

If the CPUC follows past practice, it will allow the merger to go ahead but will impose requirements that T-Mobile will have to meet in the coming years. Those conditions might end up being the “voluntary commitments” and other plans that T-Mobile has presented to the CPUC without formally and enforceably promising to fulfil them.

A simple solution would be for the CPUC to take yes for an answer and order T-Mobile to do what it say it will do. Or maybe even do better. And add real teeth to enforcement provisions.

In a last minute lobbying blitz, T-Mobile and Sprint met with advisors to the five CPUC commissioners and once again extolled the incredible wonderfulness of the benefits the new company will bestow on California if the deal goes through.

Those blessings include kinda saturating California with moderately high bandwidth 5G service on mid-band frequencies, as depicted in their proposed coverage maps. I say kinda because if you live in, say, Big Sur or on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada you’ll have to drive quite a way to get yourself saturated.

T-Mobile is also voluntarily offering to not raise consumer service prices for three years after the merger closes and to “commit to achieve” speed levels of up to 300 Mbps via its upgrade 5G cell sites. If the weasel words and time limits were removed, that might go a long way towards easing fears that T-Mobile will join AT&T and Verizon in a comfortable and highly profitable market oligopoly and jack up prices and crank up the marketing hype while laughing off any suggestion that it invest capital anywhere except where customers and revenue are densest.

Like AT&T does with its wireline broadband service.

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’s request to speed up California review of Sprint deal rejected by CPUC

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Without waiting for responses from opponents, administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer denied motions made by T-Mobile and Sprint in an attempt to speed up the California Public Utilities Commission’s review of their proposed merger yesterday. His decision was short and to the point…

After considering the motions I have determined that all of them should be denied.

No reason was given, but on the other hand T-Mobile (and junior partner Sprint) didn’t offer any new facts or arguments in making the requests. They filed four motions (links below) on Tuesday which asked for exceptions to various CPUC rules and procedures that, in aggregate, would have resulted in the commission voting on whether or not to allow the merger on 26 March 2020, instead of on 16 April 2020 as currently scheduled. The companies want to close the transaction on 1 April 2020.

CPUC procedures allow either commissioners or an administrative law judge (ALJ) to rule on motions. T-Mobile’s requests were, as customary, addressed to commissioners. Typically – I would say always, but I’d bet there are exceptions in the CPUC’s century-plus history – it’s the ALJ who rules on motions when a case is still in progress.

The motions and Bemesderfer’s denial could open a path for T-Mobile to ask a state or federal court to intervene in the CPUC’s review. Appeals of regulatory agency decisions are usually only allowed after all of the agency’s procedural steps have been completed. Filing a motion for reconsideration of Bemesderfer’s schedule appears to tick that box.

Presiding Officer’s Ruling Denying Motions for Reconsideration and to Shorten Time, 5 March 2020

T-Mobile and Sprint (aka Joint Applicants) CPUC motions, 3 March 2020
Motion of Joint Applicants for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision

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 preps to bypass CPUC, close Sprint deal before California review complete

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile billboard las vegas 6jan2020

A stack of motions from T-Mobile (and Sprint, but it’s T-Mobile leading the parade) landed at the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday. On the face of it, the four filings (links below) ask the CPUC to wrap up its review of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger in time for the deal to close on 1 April 2020. As it stands, the CPUC is running on a schedule that has a final vote set for 16 April 2020, following publication of a proposed decision by 13 March 2020.

The motions set the stage for T-Mobile to either ask a state or federal court to clear the path for the merger, or to simply ignore the CPUC and close the transaction without its blessing. Typically, judges won’t intervene in a regulatory agency’s business until administrative options – such as asking for reconsideration of a decision – have played out.

The arguments presented are the same as those made to CPUC commissioners earlier in a lobbying blitz by T-Mobile, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), which flipped from opposing the merger to actively working on T-Mobile’s behalf after extracting a $35 million payoff, and DISH, which similarly switched sides when it got a piece of the action. It would be an extraordinary step for commissioners to reverse a ruling made by an administrative law judge while a decision is being drafted. It’s even more unlikely that they would do so on the basis of rehashed rhetoric. The four motions tick the exhaust all administrative remedies box, but do little else.

T-Mobile also reiterated its position that it doesn’t need CPUC permission to take over Sprint’s mobile business, and that the relatively trivial matter of transferring Sprint’s California wireline certification isn’t controversial enough to warrant all the regulatory attention it’s getting…

The Commission has explicitly exempted wireless carriers from obtaining preapproval for transfers of control under [California public utilities law] and otherwise lacks jurisdiction to require such preapproval. Moreover, there is no real dispute that the wireline transfer application clearly satisfies the standard for wireline transfers of control.

There’s no requirement for commissioners or Karl Bemesderfer, the administrative law judge managing the case, to respond to T-Mobile’s request in any particular timeframe or, indeed, at all.

T-Mobile and Sprint (aka Joint Applicants) CPUC motions, 3 March 2020
Motion of Joint Applicants for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision

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 approval of T-Mobile/Sprint deal could hinge on what Becerra, DISH tell CPUC

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Responses from two key third party players – California attorney general Xavier Becerra and DISH – look like the final, and decisive, pieces of the puzzle as the California Public Utilities Commission wraps up its review of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger. Both responses should address the impact the deal will have on the mobile broadband marketplace in California.

Because of confidentiality practices, it’s likely that we won’t know what Becerra and DISH have to say until a proposed decision is posted by Karl Bemesderfer, the CPUC administrative law judge managing the case. According to the schedule he published two days ago, that should happen by 13 March 2020.

The CPUC is legally obligated to ask Becerra for an opinion, but he can reply or not, as he chooses. The Politico Morning Tech newsletter reported yesterday that Becerra’s staff answered questions about his plans regarding an appeal of a federal judge’s approval of the merger by pointing to the CPUC’s review. As tea leaves go, that’s a clear message that Becerra has something to say, and so far he’s tried to kill the deal. Assuming he responds like his predecessor did, he’ll detail his opinion about the merger in a formal filing, which will be incorporated into the CPUC’s proposed decision. The CPUC will have to provide a reason, based on the evidence submitted, for accepting or rejecting Becerra’s advice.

Earlier this month, Bemesderfer ordered DISH to provide detailed answers to questions about its plans, or lack thereof, to build a competitive 5G mobile network in California. The fact that he did that this late in the game could indicate – I would bet does indicate – that the question of DISH’s 5G intentions and/or capabilities is on his mind and that previous testimony by a DISH staff lobbyist was something less than satisfactory.

T-Mobile’s claim that its acquisition of Sprint won’t harm mobile broadband competition is based on two arguments: its experts say it won’t, and even so DISH will fill the gap. It’s now up to DISH to convince the CPUC that it is a credible 5G competitor.

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.