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The US Week Ahead: 2nd House subcommittee to assess T-Mobile/Sprint merger

The proposed T-Mobile US Inc.-Sprint Corp. merger is back in the spotlight on Capitol Hill this week, as a U.S. House subcommittee overseeing antitrust matters hears from T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure about the deal.

The March 12 hearing hosted by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law will mark the second time in a month that the companies' top executives have testified before Congress about the pending transaction. While the deal does not need approval from Congress, lawmakers can vocalize concerns to regulators considering the merger.

In addition to the company executives, Chris Shelton, president of Communications Workers of America, the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S. will testify, as will witnesses from a range of backgrounds that include academia, advocacy and a trade association representing rural telecommunications companies.

The T-Mobile-Sprint deal is awaiting approvals from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. On March 7, the FCC paused its informal 180-day transaction shot clock for review of the proposed deal on day 122 after the two companies submitted new information regarding their network integration plans for 2019-2021 and additional information about claims pertaining to fixed wireless broadband services. This marked the third time the FCC has paused the clock during its review of the deal. On a calendar-day basis, the review has already lasted longer than many other prominent wireless deal reviews at the agency.

Legere said during a Feb. 7 earnings call that the deal is on track to receive all regulatory approvals in the first half of 2019.

Also this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology issues will hold a hearing March 12 on legislation aimed at restoring net neutrality protections. The subcommittee held an earlier hearing on the same topic on Feb. 7.

On March 6, Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate released new legislation, known as the Save the Internet Act, that would reinstitute the FCC's Open Internet Order of 2015, which classified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and gave the FCC more authority to regulate broadband service providers. The order also prohibited broadband service providers from blocking or throttling legal internet traffic, or prioritizing specific traffic in exchange for payment. The Republican-led FCC repealed the Title II classification and classified broadband as a Title I information service through a 2018 order.

The introduction of the Save the Internet Act received a mixed reaction from industry groups. Communications advocacy groups in favor of restoring net neutrality protections, such as Public Knowledge, lauded the bill, while the American Cable Association, a trade group that represents small and midsize cable operators, suggested renewing the Title II classification could slow investment in broadband networks.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing March 12 on data privacy that looks at the European Union's new privacy regulation, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, and California's privacy law, known as the California Consumer Privacy Act, which takes effect in 2020. The hearing will consider the issues of competition and innovation, among other issues.

At the FCC, the commission will hold its monthly open meeting on March 15, where it will consider a range of spectrum issues, including an item aimed at opening up some ultra-high-band spectrum for wireless experimentation, in addition to other items.

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Federal government
March 12

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will host a hearing titled "Legislating to Safeguard the Free and Open Internet."

March 12

The House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law will hold a hearing on the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger.

March 12

The Senate Judiciary Committee will host a hearing titled "GDPR & CCPA: Opt-ins, Consumer Control, and the Impact on Competition and Innovation."

March 12

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, will host a hearing titled "The Impact of Broadband Investments in Rural America."

March 14

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform will host a hearing with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

March 15

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will host its monthly open meeting.

March 13 The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on cybersecurity education in Washington, D.C.
Industry and think tank events
March 11 The Digital Policy Institute, a research organization, will host a webinar titled "Privacy 2.0: Assessing the U.S. Regulatory Framework and the Chance for Reform."
March 12 The Brookings Institution will host an event titled "How China and the U.S. are advancing artificial intelligence" in Washington, D.C.
March 14 The Brookings Institution will host a discussion on regulating online consumer privacy and emerging technologies with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's Noah Phillips in Washington, D.C.
March 15 The Technology Policy Institute will host a discussion on blockchain policy in Washington, D.C.

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