(ABC News) — A federal judge in New York has approved the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint in a controversial decision Tuesday, siding with the telecom giants over a coalition of state attorney generals who were suing to block two of the largest wireless carriers in the U.S. from combining.
The lawsuit from 14 state attorneys general, and the District of Columbia, led by California and New York, was one of the last hurdles T-Mobile had to overcome before it could proceed with buying Sprint for $26 billion. The so-called “megamerger” already has approvals from the FCC and the Justice Department.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called Tuesday’s decision “a loss for every American who relies on their cell phone for work, to care for a family member, and to communicate with friends.”
She said that the deal “will endanger wireless subscribers where it hurts most: their wallets.”
“There is no doubt that reducing the mobile market from four to three will be bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation, which is why the states stepped up and led this lawsuit,” she added in a statement.
James said she was considering an appeal to the decision.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission argued the the exact opposite, calling the decision a “big win for consumers.”
“I’m pleased with the district court’s decision,” Pai said in a statement Tuesday. “The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will help close the digital divide and secure United States leadership in 5G.”
Pai said T-Mobile has committed to bringing 5G to “97% of our nation’s population within three years and 99% of Americans within six years,” especially in rural areas.
“This transaction represents a unique opportunity to speed up the deployment of 5G throughout the United States, put critical mid-band spectrum to more productive use, and bring much faster mobile broadband to rural Americans,” he added.
The FCC has previously approved the merger, voting along party lines in October. The merger has also secured the green light from the Justice Department.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted that “even in the face of powerful opposition, we won’t hesitate to stand up for consumers who deserve choice & fair prices,” leading many to wonder if he was alluding to an appeal coming.
“We’ll stand on the side of competition over mega mergers, every time,” he added.
T-Mobile and Sprint welcomed the news.
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, said “now we are finally able to focus on the last steps to get this merger done” in his statement welcoming the “huge victory.”
“The broad and deep 5G network that only our combined companies will be able to bring to life is going to change wireless,” he added.
Sprint’s Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure said the judge’s decision “validates our view that this merger is in the best interests of the U.S. economy and American consumers.”
“With the support of federal regulators and now this Court, we will focus on quickly completing the few remaining necessary steps to close this transaction,” he added.