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AT&T is fighting with the Justice Department over its Time Warner merger. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has been probing for months whether AT&T and Verizon colluded with a major industry group to make it harder for customers to switch providers by setting restrictive standards for a key new technology, the New York Times’ Cecilia Kang reports.

Why it matters: The revelation of the concerns come as the Justice Department is also arguing that AT&T could collude with a competitor, Comcast, in the case to block its $85 billion purchase with Time Warner. AT&T says that won’t happen.

The details: The investigation reportedly concerns tech that lets customers switch wireless providers without switching SIM cards. The carriers, the Times story says, are accused of influencing the standard-setting process for that technology in order to give them a way to keep a phone from leaving their networks.

  • "The accusations regarding this issue are much ado about nothing," said Rich Young, a Verizon spokesman. "We've been proactively and constructively working with the Department of Justice for several months regarding this inquiry and we continue to do so."
  • "Along with other GSMA members, we have provided information to the government in response to their requests and will continue to work proactively within GSMA, including with those who might disagree with the proposed standards, to move this issue forward," said an AT&T spokesman.
  • The industry group in question, GSMA, declined to comment. The Justice Department said it "does not confirm, deny, or otherwise comment, on the existence or nonexistence of investigations."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a fireworks show on the National Mall from the Truman Balcony at the White House on Wednesday night. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden signed his first executive orders into law from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening after walking in a brief inaugural parade to the White House with First Lady Jill Biden and members of their family. He was inaugurated with Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Many of Biden's day one actions immediately reverse key Trump administration policies, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, launching a racial equity initiative and reversing the Muslim travel ban.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.