Texas AG Ken Paxton Likely Facing Political Pressure to Show A Win Ahead of State AGs Court Date; Consumers Sadly in Crossfire
The recent announcement that State of Texas Attorney General (Texas AG) Ken Paxton has reached a settlement with T-Mobile US, Inc. (T-Mobile) “resolving” the Lone Star state’s antitrust claims against the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint Corp. (Sprint) signifies a sad high-water mark when it comes to public officials caving-in to corporate sweet talk. The Texas AG’s public statement announcing the settlement is drafted so it sounds impressive to a casual reader, but its commitments and promises collapse under close scrutiny. The following statement is attributed to Carri Bennet, RWA’s General Counsel:
The Texas AGs settlement with T-Mobile is beyond vague and is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. First, it contains no specific details of the actual settlement agreement between the two parties. Instead, it merely promises Texas residents that the hidden settlement agreement between the state and the company “is designed” to prevent rising consumer prices and that services and coverage will improve in the future. Importantly, the actual announcement offers no detailed terms describing exactly how the various promises will be accomplished, and just as importantly, what specific economic or regulatory repercussions T-Mobile will face if it violates either the letter or spirit of the settlement agreement. Second, all of the “requirements” T-Mobile has promised to deliver to Texas consumers are described in a manner that regurgitates earlier commitments made to the DOJ (which is subject to a separate court case), or, the requirements open the door for T-Mobile to conveniently side-step or ignore. For example, T-Mobile has repeatedly stated that its unlimited Rate Plans are marketed nationwide, so agreeing to provide Texas residents “the same or better” prices as those in the rest of the U.S. is absolutely meaningless. Additionally, T-Mobile’s promise to provide only Texas residents non-unlimited Rate Plans at prices “far below” existing prices is discriminatory at best and potentially illegal for a common carrier to uphold. Furthermore, T-Mobile’s promise to provide 5G coverage to areas where “most Texans live” is nothing more than T-Mobile saying that Texas’ largest cities and surrounding suburbs will upgrade from 4G to 5G in the next three years – – something T-Mobile would be doing with or without the elimination of Sprint. And finally, what should Texans and especially rural Texans make of T-Mobile’s promise to “expand 5G dramatically within the next six years?” Considering the company has had over two decades to expand 3G and 4G coverage in Texas but has routinely failed to do so speaks volumes.