T-Mobile and Sprint will upgrade 85 percent of their coverage areas in Pennsylvania to 5G, but they have not said whether the proposed $26 billion merger of the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers will create new Pennsylvania jobs.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approved the merger last month — and finalized it in mid-June — in a 3-2 vote, with chairperson Gladys Brown Dutrieuille and vice chair David W. Sweet dissenting. They sought guarantees that 5 percent of territory to be upgraded for faster speeds would be rural areas. The companies declined to the condition.
The T-Mobile/Sprint merger, announced in April 2018, is under final scrutiny for public interest benefits and antitrust concerns in Washington at the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice. A decision is expected soon.
The deal is a concern because it would eliminate a competitor in the wireless industry. The combined entity would have more than 127 million customers — large enough to challenge Verizon and AT&T, the industry leaders.
“This was not wild-eyed liberals trying to stifle American business,” Sweet said on Wednesday of the commitment to rural areas and some verified employment benefits. He said the requests by him and Dutrieuille were modest.
The FCC estimates that 800,000 Pennsylvania residents can’t connect to the internet, but experts say the number could be higher because the data are self-reported by internet service providers to the government.
Dutrieuille and Sweet also wanted the merged company to delay store closings in Pennsylvania in a consolidation of retail operations for 18 months.
The Communications Workers of America estimated that 168 T-Mobile or Sprint retail stores in Pennsylvania could close in the wireless merger. There are a total of 771 stores in the state, the union said, based on information downloaded from the companies’ websites in May 2017. Those include Sprint and T-Mobile stories, as well as subsidiary Boost Mobile and MetroPCS stores.
T-Mobile and Sprint denied to Pennsylvania regulators that the combined entity would close the 168 stores, eliminating more than 600 jobs.
There were 312 Philadelphia-area Sprint and T-Mobile stores, many along the retail corridors in Center City, according to the union research.
Commissioners Norman J. Kennard, Andrew G. Place, and John F. Coleman Jr. voted to approve the merger. The final Pennsylvania PUC order on the merger was issued June 13. The commission vote itself took place in May.
T-Mobile and Sprint have told Pennsylvania regulators that nationally the merger is expected to lead to 600 new retail stores in rural areas and five new call centers, each with 1,000 employees. One of those states with a new customer service center will be New York, according to Pennsylvania regulators.