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Senator Advised Dish Founder Ergen to Speak to FCC on T-Mobile-Sprint Merger- Testimony

Dish Network Chairperson Charlie Ergen testified Wednesday that the Justice Division’s antitrust chief advised him on June 10 to ask a senator to speak to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about signing a vital piece of the merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint.

The Justice Division greenlit the merger in July after the carriers agreed to sell some assets to satellite supplier Dish. The merger, however, was nonetheless subject to permission by the FCC, which came in October.

Ergen’s testimony Wednesday came during the trial of a suit filed in June by a group of U.S. states seeking to halt the Sprint and T-Mobile merger deal.

The states, led by New York and California, say the merger would result in higher costs for customers.

The acquisition by Englewood, Colorado-based Dish of the Sprint assets would enable Dish to develop a viable competitor to the combined T-Mobile/Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T.

It’s unusual for a Justice Division delegate to recommend to a company that it uses to access to U.S. senators to lobby one other federal agency.

Attorneys for the states Wednesday presented a text message from June 10 in which Makan Delrahim, the Justice Division’s antitrust department head, informed Ergen: “Today would be a great day to have your Senator friends contact the chairperson,” a reference to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

The states opposing the merger lodged their suit the following day. A spokesperson for Pai rejected to comment.

Ergen testified that he asked Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado to speak with Pai and also talked with Senate majority chief Mitch McConnell, however, mentioned he didn’t recall asking McConnell to reach out to anybody.

The trial will run until Friday.