An administrative judge in California recommended the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approve a proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US, potentially setting the stage to clear one of the final hurdles to the deal.
The judge’s decision has no legal effect unless the CPUC approves it. Court records state the earliest the Commission could debate the matter is at a meeting scheduled for 16 April. Details on whether the subject is tabled for discussion will be released on 6 April, the court explained.
Sprint and T-Mobile originally asked the CPUC to approve the deal in July 2018. Under Californian law, mobile operators are considered “telephone corporations” and therefore public utilities subject to regulation by the Commission. It is last of 19 such state authorities yet to approve the deal.
The judge determined the merger “will create a new company that is well-positioned to provide a robust 5G service network that can compete with the two larger carriers”.
He concluded “extensive conditions” imposed by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice in 2019 in exchange for their approval sufficiently “mitigate potential adverse impacts on consumers”.
However, the judge proposed adding specific conditions for California, including speed and coverage targets for mobile and broadband service; a requirement to serve low-income consumers on California’s Lifeline subsidy programme; and a mandate the combined company add at least 1,000 new jobs in the state within three years.
The judge’s recommendation came the same day California attorney general Xavier Becerra dropped a legal bid to block the deal, after the operators agreed to broadly similar conditions as those recommended by the court.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back