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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When T-Mobile US and Sprint first announced their $26 billion merger in early 2018, the endgame was to reduce the country's number of major mobile carriers from four to three ⁠— thus letting the new partners better compete with AT&T and Verizon. But that ship appears to have sailed.

The state of play: Multiple reports are saying that the Justice Department is insisting on the maintenance of four majors, despite T-Mobile CEO John Legere's still-available tweet about how DOJ doesn't believe the deal needs any restructuring. Enter Dish, which currently is a satellite TV company without any mobile telecom offering.

  • But it does have a bunch of spectrum, which makes it one of a few viable partners to get this thing over the finish line.
  • The idea is that T-Mobile/Sprint would make divestitures to ensure Dish could become the fabled fourth player — albeit possibly more as a reseller on the existing network, rather than a new network itself.

The big picture: It's an elegant solution, but not without its own challenges.

  • The biggest obstacle may be Dish chairman and former CEO Charlie Ergen, who holds nearly a 37% stake in the company and is known to be a very tough negotiator. What Ergen wants may not ultimately be palatable to T-Mobile, and he appears to have most of the leverage.
  • Plus, it's possible that DOJ won't like the final compromise, assuming there is one.
  • Sprint owner SoftBank recently hired another lobbyist to work on the transaction, per Axios' David McCabe.

The bottom line: When announced, this deal was presented as a much easier regulatory pass than was AT&T-Time Warner, even though it's a very vertical merger. It was wishful thinking.

Go deeper: Sprint's stock rallies again as merger hopes rise

Go deeper

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
1 hour ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

Obama: Broad slogans like "defund the police" lose people

Snapchat.

Former President Barack Obama told Peter Hamby on the Snapchat original political show "Good Luck America" that "snappy" slogans such as "defund the police" can alienate people, making the statements less effective than intended.

What he's saying: "You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done," Obama told Hamby in an interview that will air Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. EST on Snapchat.