Why Doesn’t Dish Just Buy T-Mobile?

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After years of trying, T-Mobile is finally merging with Sprint thanks to approval from President Trump’s Justice Department. But something about this perplexes me. I thought about it again while reading Matt Yglesias’s piece about the merger over at Vox, and—well, I’ll just let him tell the story:

The reason that allowing the United States to go from four mobile phone providers to three providers is okay, according to the Justice Department, is that they have a plan to create a fourth competitor. Specifically, Dish, the satellite television company — which already owns the minor player Boost Mobile — is also going to acquire Sprint’s prepaid subsidiary Virgin Mobile. What’s more, the new merged T-Mobile has committed to giving Dish seven years’ worth of access to its infrastructure to resell. That means that while there will be only three companies with a national mobile phone infrastructure, there will be four sellers of that infrastructure. Boost, meanwhile, is supposed to spend that seven-year window building out its own infrastructure. So ultimately, there will be four players after all and everything will be okay.

As Yglesias says, this is an odd bankshot. If it’s important to have four carriers, why not just disapprove the merger?

But it’s odd in another way. If Dish wants to be the fourth carrier, why don’t they just buy T-Mobile (or Sprint) outright instead of taking seven years to build out their own infrastructure? That would get Dish what they want and it would keep four solid carriers around right from the start.

So why isn’t Dish buying T-Mobile? They’ve been part of the rumor mill forever, and it seems like it makes sense. What am I missing?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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