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  • Bob Knight

Talking Points: The T-Mobile/Sprint Deal and Fiber Investment

T-Mobile Billboard in Times Square, New York City

A coalition of State's Attorneys General may block the T-Mobile-Sprint merger that was recently approved by the Justice Department. Photo Credit: Getty Images

There's been much talk this week about the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. It's been lauded a means to connect 99% of the country to 5G service by the wireless industry, a message that's been echoed by scores of lobbyists and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (and ultimately two of his four other colleagues at the Commission). The Justice Department gave its approvals with the caveat that T-Mobile would need to spin off some of its wireless assets.

In a letter to Senator Tom Udall , Chairman Pai stated strong support for the merger, saying he believes the deal is in the public interest for widespread 5G deployment and bridging the nation's widening digital divide. Here is Chairman Pai's recent statement showing bi-partisan support for the merger, including from former FCC Commissioner––and frequent Pai critic––Mignon Clyburn.

Slam dunk, right? Not exactly.

A coalition of critics, led by New York Attorney General Tish James, her Attorneys General colleagues, and a cartel of industry watchdogs, are crying foul, saying the merger hurts competition and consumers alike. As one would imagine, the Twittersphere is on fire.

In his weekly podcast, Chris Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative for Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Policy Director for Next Century Cities, facilitated a compelling discussion on the wireless merger with two outspoken critics: Blair Levin of the Brookings Institution, author of the National Broadband Plan and former Chief of Staff to Chairman Reed Hundt at the FCC, and Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law and former Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Levin and Sohn provide an insider's prospective on the role of Wall Street signaling, the Justice Department, the carriers, FCC, and why they think the merger harms consumers. It's an interesting discussion worthy of a listen.

We at Harrison Edwards are optimistic about 5G technology and what it promises to offer--better speed, better connectivity, and new applications. However, the benefits of 5G can only be realized when when coupled with fiber networks. In America, our nation is far behind other developed countries in the deployment of fiber. Right now, investment is being funneled into 5G networks without building the necessary fiber infrastructure to power 5G technology. But that's changing, as investors are starting to invest in fiber.

So, does the T-Mobile-Sprint merger represent a vehicle for investment, or is it a play for greater marketshare? Only time will tell. What we do know is that investment in fiber and 5G must work hand-in-hand for our economy and communities to realize their full potential, no matter what the talking points say.

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