By Chloe Aiello
Hours after tough questioning before a House committee Wednesday, Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure told Cheddar he still has faith his proposed merger with T-Mobile will win FCC and Justice Department approval.
"We have a lot of faith in those two institutions ー the [Federal Communications Commission] and [Department of Justice] ー to basically approve based on the merits of the merger," Claure told Cheddar's J.D. Durkin.
Claure and T-Mobile CEO John Legere have long pitched the mega-merger of their companies, the third and fourth largest U.S. telecom carriers, as a strategic play at 5G ー or the next generation of internet. And Claure said he is confident lawmakers won't jeopardize the U.S. race to 5G against China by scuttling the deal.
"You've seen the benefits of 4G. When the U.S. is leading 4G, we have the world's most valuable companies ー all tech in the U.S.," Claure said. "There's a threat that all those entrepreneurs, all those innovations, all those disruptors will start heading to China. That's something that no lawmaker in the U.S. will allow to happen."
The companies have also promised the merger would lead to job creation, expanded rural coverage, lower prices and a $40 billion investment in its new network. But some members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee expressed skepticism during the hearing on Wednesday.
According to the Associated Press, the lawmakers expressing doubts included Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) who said he was concerned the merger would lead to higher prices for "consumers who can least afford to pay more."
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), however, told Cheddar he was encouraged that the executives said they'd be willing to include as conditions of the merger that rates would remain the same for three years following the deal and that it would not result in sweeping job losses.
"We are concerned about making sure that we are not seeing huge firings ー these are constituents of mine and across the nation. But we also need to make sure we are competitive and forging forward on a 5G network," Soto said.
On the eve of the hearing, a group of eight U.S. Democratic Senators, including rumored or confirmed presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), all signed a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission and DOJ to stop the merger due to antitrust concerns, Reuters reported.
"I guess that's part of American politics. There's going to be some who are in favor, and some who are against," Claure said.