Today, at the pre-trial conference held in federal court (Southern District New York), the ten state attorneys general who have sued to block the T-Mobile/Sprint merger were joined by attorneys general of four additional states — Massachusetts, Hawaii, Nevada and Minnesota — in their efforts to protect consumers, including those living in and traveling through rural America. Judge Victor Marrero voiced a series of concerns with the merger’s impact on rural consumers, focusing heavily on the potential detrimental impact on rural areas. Specifically, with T-Mobile’s plan to decommission some of Sprint’s cell sites in rural areas and the loss of affordable roaming for rural consumers, he queried whether there would be a loss of service in rural America. He also questioned T-Mobile’s proposed build out plan which has not been very specific. Additionally, Judge Marrero appeared interested in whether AT&T and Verizon would step in to build out to rural areas if Sprint is eliminated.
The tentative trial date has been set for October 7, 2019 with the expectation that the trial will last two to three weeks. Judge Marrero suggested that the timing of the trial may be affected if DOJ approves the merger. The State AGs are adamant about continuing with the litigation even if the merger were to receive DOJ and FCC approval prior to the trial date, surmising that any such approvals would require additional review and analysis to ensure compliance with the States’ antitrust concerns.
“RWA is pleased that Judge Marrero is looking after rural Americans and those traveling in rural America. His comments today during the pre-trial hearing are of great comfort to our members and the customers they serve. T-Mobile has not been interested in rural America until it became apparent that it cannot get its merger through without working on its coverage issues in rural America or its treatment of its customers trying to reach those living and working in rural America”, stated Carri Bennet, General Counsel. “RWA continues to appreciate the good work that the attorneys in both the New York and California AG’s offices are doing to protect consumers from loss of service and increases in prices.”