West Virginia’s Public Service Commission voted Friday to approve AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA without conditions, ending Sprint’s attempt to get the agency to open an investigation into the merger.
The decision followed approval for the deal last Wednesday from Louisiana’s Public Service Commission and by Arizona regulators on June 27. Commissioners in Hawaii and California are still reviewing the merger and have not yet issued a decision.
Final approval for AT&T’s buyout of T-Mobile ultimately rests with the FCC and Justice Department, but some states have also decided to review the transaction. It is not clear what legal authority, if any, states have to block the deal.
West Virginia officials decided to approve the deal after determining it would “not adversely impact competition” in the state. The commission also said it was “swayed” by AT&T’s pledge to allow existing T-Mobile customers to stay on their contract.
“It is reasonable to consent to the transfer of control the Petitioners proposed because the terms of the merger are reasonable, do not adversely affect the public and no party is given an undue advantage,” the state said in its order.
An AT&T spokesman said in an e-mail that the third state-level confirmation for the deal was a sign of growing government support for the merger.
“We believe this demonstrates that, after careful review, government officials continue to recognize the importance of this transaction as well as its many consumer benefits,” he said. “These commissions are also recognizing that the market for wireless services is highly competitive and will remain so.”
Sprint expressed disappointment over the state’s decision to support the merger.
“While we are disappointed that the Public Service Commission took this step, we are confident, given the evidence before the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, that the government will reject AT&T’s bid to takeover T-Mobile,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor.
The AT&T rival asked West Virginia’s Public Service Commission in May to open a probe into AT&T’s pending buyout of T-Mobile, saying the deal was “not in the best interest of consumers” in the state. AT&T blasted Sprint’s request, saying the company had “virtually no presence” in the state.
AT&T has been gathering state-level support for the deal. The decision from West Virginia came after Attorney Generals from 11 states asked the FCC and DOJ last week to approve the deal between AT&T and T-Mobile.