Concerned that there is an ever-dwindling number of businesses remaining in Connecticut for the Democrat-controlled state legislature and Democrat executive agencies to hamstring, state Attorney General William Tong has recently announced that he will open his aperture and seek to kill national businesses, as well. Tong will join a highly partisan field of eight other states and the District of Columbia (see if you can guess what the AGs of CA, CO, CT, DC, MD, MI, MS, NY, VA, and WI have in common) to sue to block the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. You might fairly wonder – aren’t there better things to do for the AG of a state bleeding businesses, jobs, and people like a punctured balloon? But if you’re savvy enough to ask that question, you won’t like the answer.
Tong would have you believe that the proposed transaction is precisely the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger our nation’s antitrust laws were created to prevent. And he no doubt sees himself as a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt. But if you can picture T-Mobile or Sprint in your mind as a turn-of-the-19th century Standard Oil or a mid-20th century AT&T, then you have a much more vivid imagination than I do. No, to find his real motivation, you need to scroll a little further down his press release, to the part that says “CWA applauds the Attorneys General … in taking decisive action today to prevent T-Mobile and Sprint from gaining anti-competitive power at the expense of workers….” CWA is the Communications Workers of America, a private-sector union, and as we all now know, nothing gets a Democrat’s blood going like an attaboy from a union official.
This is all quite sad, as the proposed merger would likely give all of us – consumers – something we don’t currently have, namely, a real competitor to Verizon and AT&T. If you are a wireless customer and you value breadth and depth of coverage and quality of calls, then you are effectively stuck with this duopoly. Tong is correct that T-Mobile and Sprint are the “lower-cost carriers” of the “Big Four,” but he is wrong to assume that just because they are the third- and fourth-largest carriers, they are the equivalent of Verizon or AT&T. It is a bit like asking for a less expensive champagne and having Tong give you a bottle of Prosecco. It might taste just fine, but it’s not the same.
Also sad is the short shrift that Tong and his Democrat AG buddies give to the assertion that the merger will speed up and improve the breadth of 5G network deployment in the U.S. Technology moves so quickly that it is easy to forget just how monumental large changes in network technology can be. It was only after the turn of the millennium that the advent of 3G networks truly made smartphones as we think of them possible. And the increased speeds and bandwidth of LTE networks have allowed our phones to become true mobile computers. The upcoming 5G networks promise so much more. Tong and others purport to be concerned about rural access to wireless, but 5G networks promise advances that could be life-changing to truly rural areas, like real-time telemedicine. Why anyone would want to actively hold that back in any way is beyond me.
Tong asserts that the U.S. won the “race to LTE” as a result of vigorous competition among wireless carriers. But we actually won the race to LTE by allowing private industry to sprint ahead, rather than tying their laces together at the starting gate. The race to 5G is even more important, and you can be assured that other countries are trying to sprint as fast as possible.
Irina Comer is an independent Connecticut business broker who lives with her family in Norwalk.
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