T-Mobile tries to catch its California boomerang, with the usual result

23 August 2019 by Steve Blum
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Boomerang fingers

T-Mobile filed its reply yesterday to critics who don’t want the California Public Utilities Commission to blindly accept the wonderfulness of the deal it reached with anti-trust enforcers at the federal justice department, as it tries to complete its acquisition of Sprint. The CPUC should behold the glory of that settlement, T-Mobile’s lawyers argued, because it’s irrelevant.

Huh, you ask?

Yeah, it’s bizarre logic but it makes sense in a twisted sort of way. T-Mobile “advised” the CPUC of the federal anti-trust settlement apparently in a fit of selfless good citizenship, I suppose because no one might have noticed it otherwise. Of course, it’s simply one more bit of proof that T-Mobile and Sprint want to combine with each other and shrink the U.S. mobile broadband market from four competitive players to three oligopolistic ones because of the avalanche of social progress that will be unleashed, and not from any untoward desire to extract monopoly profits from the deal. But actually, T-Mobile’s reply brief argues, the dump truck load of public benefits that it’s backing up to California is already big enough and there’s no need to quibble about federal anti-trust proceedings because the “record before the Commission is comprehensive and complete, and the case stands submitted”.

What might be going on is that T-Mobile figured out that the federal settlement, which involves launching a new mobile competitor in the form of DISH, opens a whole new set of questions in California. Like, what happens to the Sprint and/or T-Mobile employees who will be cut loose and left with only the opportunity to apply for a new job with DISH? Will DISH make good on T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s erstwhile obligations in California? Can the new T-Mobile still offer the incredibly awesome rural service it promised (and outside experts debunked) even though it’s giving up valuable low band spectrum to DISH?

In other words, the federal settlement changed the game, and T-Mobile is backpedaling now, claiming it’s the same game and the CPUC can and should ignore it.

It’s not, and the CPUC can’t and shouldn’t.