On Behalf of Rural Telecom Carriers, Bennet Tells House Members that the Proposed Merger Would Raise Prices and Reduce Coverage in Rural America.

WASHINGTON, DC—On Feb. 13, Womble Bond Dickinson attorney and Rural Wireless Association General Counsel Carri Bennet testified before the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology about the negative impact that the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger could have on rural communities.

“This consolidation will force rural Americans to pay more money for wireless services,” Bennet told the Subcommittee. “In addition, it will undermine the system of roaming that is a key component of telecommunications and broadband access in rural communities and degrade service quality. In short, this merger will do nothing to help rural Americans or those traveling in rural America, but will do much to hurt them.”

Bennet said that Sprint has been a willing partner with rural carriers in providing reciprocal roaming agreements at reasonable rates. However, other national carriers have not proven as willing to work with small, rural carriers, and Bennet said T-Mobile has shown little interest in partnering with rural companies on roaming agreements.

“This means T-Mobile’s customers cannot access wireless services when traveling in rural areas,” she said. “The result? They cannot be reached and are basically off the grid, all because T-Mobile chooses to restrict access to the rural carriers’ networks.”

Likewise, rural carriers and their customers could see huge increases in roaming costs should the merger be approved and T-Mobile’s rates are adopted. Rural Americans could be forced to purchase two mobile phone plans—one with a local carrier and one with the New T-Mobile—just to ensure consistent coverage. Also, the dramatic increase in costs could force some rural carriers completely out of business.

“Without outbound roaming, rural carriers cannot offer a compelling retail product to consumers. Absent that capability, they will be forced to exit the business, leaving an untold number of Americans without any access to mobile wireless communications in rural America,” Bennet said.

The US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology was broadcast on C-SPAN. Click here to watch the video (Bennet’s testimony begins at 51:45).

Also, click here to read a written transcript of Bennet’s testimony.

Last December, Bennet co-authored an op-ed in Morning Consult on “How the Sprint-T-Mobile Merger Would Harm Consumers, Competition and Jobs”.

Carri Bennet has more than three decades of experience representing wireline, wireless and broadband communications providers, as well as commercial and noncommercial broadcasters, in regulatory compliance matters. She has a particular focus on advocating for small rural carriers, including serving as General Counsel to the Rural Wireless Association. Bennet represents telecom industry clients before the FCC, state regulatory agencies, the courts, and Congress.

T-Mobile Sprint Hearing Carri Bennet