Today, Public Knowledge, joined by Common Cause, Consumers Union, New America’s Open Technology Institute, and Writers Guild of America West filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to deny the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.
Today, Sprint Corporation and T-Mobile U.S. Inc. announced plans to merge to form a massive wireless carrier. The combination would reduce the number of national wireless carriers from four to three. Just as the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission concluded when the government rejected AT&T’s 2011 attempt to acquire T-Mobile, such a drastic reduction in competition is likely to harm competition and increase costs for consumers.
Beginning yesterday, T-Mobile is offering a limited-time promotion tied to the wildly popular augmented reality game Pokémon GO, in which the mobile data used by the game will not count toward a customer’s data cap. This is yet another form of zero-rating, a practice that can raise serious concerns about competition policy, net neutrality, and consumer choice. Amidst a global Poké-craze, we shouldn’t lose sight of what this may portend for the future of the open internet. So we want to take the opportunity to raise a number of questions about this promotion which would also be important to answer for any other zero-rating service proposal. Before concluding anything about this promotion or any similar plans that may be proposed, it is important to better understand their potential dangers and benefits.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission clarified its legal standard for the negotiation of data roaming agreements by acting on a petition from T-Mobile. Although not a policy change, the new guidance from the FCC should help small carriers ensure they can negotiate data roaming agreements on commercially reasonable terms.