DISH ordered to answer detailed questions about California plans as CPUC extends review of T-Mobile/Sprint merger

5 February 2020 by Steve Blum
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Dish ces press conference 2012

DISH must provide detailed information about its plans for infrastructure, service and employees in California, before the California Public Utilities Commission moves ahead with its review of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger. The administrative law judge managing the case, Karl Bemesderfer, ordered DISH to “immediately provide substantive responses” to questions posed by the CPUC’s public advocates office (PAO). Links to the questions are below.

Bemesderfer’s order overruled DISH’s objections and the limitations it wants to put on the information it delivers. Although the order doesn’t say so, one might be forgiven for thinking Bemesderfer and the CPUC commissioner in overall charge of the review, Clifford Rechtschaffen, are interested in knowing the answers too.

The procedural path forward isn’t clear, but its a safe assumption that Bemesderfer will have to be satisfied with DISH’s response before he publishes a draft decision approving or blocking the T-Mobile/Sprint deal. He might also give the PAO and others time to review the answers.

The PAO’s questions mostly try to drill down on the vague and weasel worded promises DISH made in written and oral testimony about where in California it plans to build its breathtakingly stupendous 5G network and offer its awesomely fabulous 5G service. Among other things, the ruling will require DISH to provide details, some very specific, about…

  • Whether DISH plans to offer Lifeline service.
  • Details of other service plans.
  • The experience its staff (mostly satellite guys) has with mobile telecoms.
  • Where in rural California it intends to build cellular facilities.
  • How much capital it’ll invest in California infrastructure.
  • What spectrum assets it has now in California, what frequencies it’ll get from T-Mobile if the deal is approved, and how all that will be used.
  • The location of stores it will acquire from Sprint and the number of employees at each.

In its first and second responses, DISH blew off most of the questions. Its responses included such gems as “DISH continues to analyse and finalise its business and deployment plans”, “DISH anticipates providing a variety of consumer-friendly mobile wireless service plans” and my favorite “DISH objects to this Request as vague, overbroad, and unduly burdensome, and not proportional to the needs of this matter”.

Not very helpful.

There’s no real deadline for a final CPUC decision. It can come as soon as 30 days after Bemesderfer posts his draft, and that doesn’t seem likely to happen for a few more weeks.

Administrative Law Judge’s Order Granting Motion to Compel Responses to Data Requests, 4 February 2020
Presiding Officer’s Ruling Granting in Part and Denying in Part Joint Applicants’ Request for Confidential Treatment of Information, 3 February 2020
DISH Network Corporation’s Responses and Objections To the California Public Advocates Office’s Data Request No. 001, 20 September 2019
DISH Network Corporation’s Responses and Objections To the California Public Advocates Office’s Data Request No. 002, 31 October 2019
Motion of the Public Advocates Office to Compel Responses to Data Requests, 5 November 2019

Links to the stack of arguments and exhibits everyone has filed are here.

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