The T-Mobile/Sprint merger will be on the California Public Utilities Commission’s 16 April 2020 agenda, for a decision one way or the other.
Yesterday, Karl Bemesderfer, the administrative law judge managing the CPUC’s review of the merger, issued a ruling that set a new schedule for the proceeding. He plans to publish a proposed decision by 13 March 2020, and he expects it’ll be taken up at the commission’s scheduled voting meeting on 16 April, which would allow for at least 30 days for the public to review and provide comments on it, per CPUC practice.
There’s no guarantee that Bemesderfer’s schedule will be met – it’s a plan, not holy writ – but the fact that he published it indicates a significant degree of confidence that all the necessary facts are in the record, or shortly will be, and that a draft decision can be completed in two and half weeks.
Bemesderfer’s ruling comes after T-Mobile and Sprint pushed for an earlier decision. They wanted a proposed decision posted by today, so that a vote could be taken at the commission’s 26 March 2020 meeting. That would be in time for them to complete their merger by their stated goal of 1 April 2020.
That’s assuming that the CPUC approves the merger, either as is or with some conditions or modifications to the deal the two companies put on the table. Which is not a particularly safe assumption. The commissioners could reject it completely, although that hasn’t been the way they’ve handled big telecoms mergers in recent years.
Three such have been considered since 2015. Frontier Communications’ purchase of Verizon’s wireline telephone systems in California and Charter Communication’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable were approved with a long list of conditions. Comcast’s attempted takeover of Time Warner Cable (which also involved market swaps with Charter) was on track for similar approval, albeit with at least one commissioner pushing to kill it, before federal officials did the job for them.