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Gigi Sohn on Wireless Mergers, Utah Ignite Lunch Launch, and New Global Crypto-Currencies

Masha Abarinova

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Photo by Marco Verch used with permission

The political turmoil and guess-manship over the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger continues, with 10 state attorney generals filing a lawsuit in New York last week in a federal district court. Unusually, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice did not join the lawsuit.

It’s not the first thing that’s unusual about this particular merger review. In a Tuesday piece on the Benton Foundation’s “Digital Beat,” noted telecom consumer advocate Gigi Sohn cataloged the growing elements of intrigue:

  • For the FCC to “go it alone” was unprecedented. When the FCC and the Antitrust Division are both charged with reviewing mergers in the media and telecommunications industries, the two agencies will announce a decision to grant a merger almost simultaneously. In the nearly four weeks since Pai gave his blessing to the transaction, the Antitrust Division and the Assistant Attorney General who leads it, Makan Delrahim, have made no official announcement. There have only been news reports that Delrahim is not satisfied with the Pai’s decision and instead is trying to create a new, viable, fourth national mobile wireless carrier by requiring the merging parties to divest spectrum and other assets, a task that few believe is possible.
  • Why did Chairman Pai get so far ahead of his Justice Department colleague? Many observers believe it was to put political pressure on Delrahim to approve the deal, against the reported wishes of the career staff of the Antitrust Division. In addition, Fox Business has reported that senior White House officials have also voiced their support for the merger, though it is unclear whether they have spoken directly to Delrahim.

Sohn, a critic of the merger, highlights how the complaint of the state attorneys general demonstrates that the merger will raise prices and reduce competition. She also said that the companies’ promises to roll out the next generation of 5G wireless in rural America are “promises the companies made to rapidly rollout next generation 5G wireless services and serve large swaths of rural America are speculative, unsubstantiated and unenforceable.”

Facebook announces new crypto-currency app Calibra, and Spotify joins Libra Association

Facebook’s crypto-currency foray will allow the social network giant’s users access to the Libra network, the company said in a Tuesday statement. Facebook’s first product, Calibra, will serve as a digital wallet for the open source blockchain currency. The wallet will be available in Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app, and the company expects to launch it next year.

Also on Tuesday, Spotify announced its partnership with the Libra Association, the non-profit organization that manages the cypto-currency.

Spotify highlights how about 1.7 billion adults worldwide have no access to mobile money, a bank account or payment card. Libra’s reserve-backed currency will enable people to send, spend and save their money through a financial ecosystem powered by secure blockchain technology.

“One challenge for Spotify and its users around the world has been the lack of easily accessible payment systems – especially for those in financially underserved markets,” said chief premium business officer Alex Norström, “In joining the Libra Association, there is an opportunity to better reach Spotify’s total addressable market, eliminate friction and enable payments in mass scale.”

Utah hosts Smart Cities Lunch

Utah Ignite and the Point of the Mountain Chamber of Commerce in Lehi, Utah, is hosting a monthly Smart Cities Lunch on Thursday, June 20. The event will bring the tech community and city leaders together to discuss the opportunities and best practices of smart city initiatives.

Because of the existence of robust fiber-optic networks through the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency in 11 cities, and Google Fiber in Provo and Salt Lake, Utah already has one of the most-advanced fiber-optic infrastructure anywhere in the country.

Glenn Ricart, the founder and chief technology officer of US Ignite – and an instrumental force in the creation of the Utah-based Utah Ignite – will speak at the event. Ricart was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013 for implementing the first Inter-net interconnection point, the FIX in College Park, Maryland.

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