Feb 05 2020

WASHINGTON, DC—Many consumer advocacy groups and rural telecom supporters still have serious questions about the proposed merger between wireless giants Sprint and T-Mobile. Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Carri Bennet, Daryl Zakov, John Nelson and Lela Ames recently represented Rural Wireless Association Inc., New America’s Open Technology Institute and Consumer Reports in filing a brief of amici curiae with the US District Court for the District of Columbia outlining these key concerns.

The US Department of Justice’s plan clearing the merger would involve Dish acquiring Sprint’s prepaid wireless business and ultimately building out its own wireless capabilities. But in the amicus brief, the Womble Bond Dickinson team argues that there are no guarantees that Dish will be able to assume Sprint’s current role as the fourth national wireless network company. That will diminish consumer options, particularly in underserved rural areas. The amicus brief also points to Dish’s inexperience in this particular area of wireless service as a reason to be skeptical of the company’s chances of successfully replacing Sprint.

“The seismic change in the marketplace resulting from a transition from four nationwide carriers to just three will be too much to bear. For entry of some new, fourth, facilities-based nationwide wireless carrier to effectively avert those harms by replacing the competition lost by Sprint’s exit, it would have to bring a lot more to the marketplace than what DISH could possibly be expected to bring."

Carri Bennet, Daryl Zakov, John Nelson and Lela Ames

“The seismic change in the marketplace resulting from a transition from four nationwide carriers to just three will be too much to bear. For entry of some new, fourth, facilities-based nationwide wireless carrier to effectively avert those harms by replacing the competition lost by Sprint’s exit, it would have to bring a lot more to the marketplace than what DISH could possibly be expected to bring,” the Womble Bond Dickinson team argues in the brief.

A second, unrelated amicus brief filed by economists from several prominent universities also questioned the DOJ’s handling of the merger proposal. They agree with the Rural Wireless Association Inc., New America’s Open Technology Institute and Consumer Reports that such a merger would make the wireless marketplace less competitive for consumers.

Bennet serves as General Counsel to the Rural Wireless Association, while Zakov serves as the RWA’s Assistant General Counsel.

Law360 recently reported on the amicus briefs. Click here to read “Dish, 5G Dominate Briefs Staking Out Stands On Sprint Deal” at Law360.

In addition, Law360 wrote a follow-up article on the latest developments in federal court--including the RWA’s position on the proposed merger. Click here to read “T-Mobile, Sprint Press For Final Decision On DOJ Deal Review” at Law360.

Click here to read the full amicus brief from the Rural Wireless Association Inc., New America’s Open Technology Institute and Consumer Reports.

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.

Daryl Zakov is an experienced communications attorney who advises clients in the telecommunications, cable, satellite, broadcasting, and wireless sectors — including providing step-by-step guidance on FCC auctions, FCC proceedings, and NTIA or USDA (RUS) funding programs. Daryl also counsels clients on disruptive and emerging technologies, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, aka drones), mobile internet applications, cloud-networking, SaaS, and the Internet of Things.

John Nelson focuses his practice on guiding clients through sophisticated and complex telecom and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation disputes. His practice includes representing US and international telecom carriers in both federal and state courts, as well as in regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission and state agencies. 

Lela Ames advises clients and litigates cases in a wide variety of matters involving commercial real estate, financial services, manufacturing, contracts, and business torts. Ames counsels clients at all stages of litigation and practices before a variety of tribunals. Her diverse experience includes successful bench and jury trials, complex electronic discovery, depositions, motions hearings, mediations and arbitrations, emergency injunctive relief, and appeals.