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The Federal Communications Commission has voted to formally approve the massive $26.5 billion T-Mobile and Sprint merger on Wednesday.
That vote comes just a few months after the Department of Justice gave T-Mobile and Sprint the green light to continue with the deal. Before that DoJ decision in July, the merger spent more than a year stuck in regulatory limbo.
While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai suggested that he would vote to approve the deal back in May, support for the merger wasn’t unanimous among FCC commissioners. The vote passed along party lines with the two Democrat commissioners dissenting, an FCC source told The Verge (though an official statement has yet to be released).
One of the Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, expressed her disapproval in an op-ed for The Atlantic today. In the piece, she says the deal will only hurt consumers by driving up prices and reducing competition.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who was the last to vote on the merger, also expressed hesitation to green light the deal. Back in September, he called on the FCC to delay any votes until an investigation into Sprint allegedly misappropriating funds was completed.
But, at this point, there appears to be only one last hurdle for the merger.
Earlier this year, a coalition of more than dozen state attorneys general filed a multistate lawsuit to block the deal. That lawsuit must be resolved before the deal can actually close. Despite that, both companies expect the deal to officially close by the end of the year.
If that happens, the two companies will team up as the “New T-Mobile,” becoming an obviously more dominant player in the U.S. telecom industry.
They’ve both promised not to raise prices for the first three years after the deal closes. The telcos also said that they’re committed to building out a nationwide 5G network covering 99 percent of Americans within six years.
The DoJ approval, however, came with a few stipulations. The New T-Mobile will be required to sell a handful of assets and cell infrastructure to Dish Network, which will fill Sprint’s vacancy and become the fourth major carrier in the U.S.