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The Department of Justice wants T-Mobil and Sprint to establish another wireless competitor with a dedicated network in order to win approval for their merger, per Bloomberg this week.

Why it matters: The story reveals key aspects of how regulators are thinking about the deal on which T-Mobile has bet its future growth.

  • The DOJ is reportedly leaning towards an analysis that finds that competition only exists in wireless when there are four competitors that each maintain their own network of coverage, rather than leasing one from another company.
  • The split is pronounced between DOJ’s approach, which by law focuses exclusively on how a merger will affect competition, and that of the FCC, which is already moving towards approving the Sprint/T-Mobile deal under its standard of whether a merger is in the “public interest.”
  • DOJ’s reported condition goes further than what T-Mobile and Sprint proposed to get FCC approval: selling off Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid service. (Reuters reported on Thursday that Amazon is interested in buying the brand.)

A new competitor would need access to a credible brand, as well as access to wireless spectrum to build a network — although access to someone else's wireless network could be a stopgap until that was possible, Bloomberg notes.

Flashback: Previous regulators have drawn the line at moving from 4 to 3 wireless carriers.

The bottom line: If DOJ is serious about drawing that line again, then T-Mobile’s deal could be in trouble.

  • "I have a hard time seeing T-Mobile saying, ‘Well, that’s progress. I’ve strengthened my position in the marketplace but somebody has all these criteria so I’m still one of four,’” said Tom Wheeler, who was FCC chairman when regulators indicated to Sprint it shouldn't attempt a merger with T-Mobile.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.