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The Potential Value of Antitrust

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I was recently dismissive of the Democratic Party’s record on antitrust, and in doing so I was unfair; the Obama administration’s record is actually quite good, and a major improvement from its predecessor.  Perhaps the most important antitrust action was stopping the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, which appears to have been a major win for consumers:

A rash of consumer-friendliness has broken out across the mobile data industry. Over the last year, the four major carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — have cut prices and offered greater flexibility in how they sell their voice, text and broadband services. The industry could be on the verge of an all-out price war.

Who is responsible for this blessed state of affairs?

Credit must go to the United States government.

In 2011, officials at the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department moved to block AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile. That kept the struggling, fourth-place carrier alive as an independent firm. And it led John J. Legere, T-Mobile’s flamboyant, foul-mouthed chief executive, to brand his company the “uncarrier,” and inaugurate a string of measures that have turned every accepted practice in the mobile business on its head.

T-Mobile’s resurgence, and the effect it has had on the larger market for cellular service, may hold important lessons for regulators who will soon sit in judgment over the latest enormous broadband proposal, Comcast’s deal to gobble up Time Warner Cable.

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