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Sprint and T-Mobile Getting Scrod?






Old joke.


A traveller who is a huge fan of seafood arrives in Boston for the first time.  He leaves the airport and hails a cab.  After he gets in, he excitedly says to the cabbie, "Hey, I'm new in town.  Can you tell me a good place to go to get scrod?"  The cabbie replies [in a thick Boston accent], "Pal, I've got to congratulate you.  I've heard that question a lot over the years, but that's the first time I've ever heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive."


That joke is so old that it was first told in an era when large numbers of people could explain what the pluperfect subjunctive is. [You can google it if you like, but of course it won't help. You either find the joke funny or not regardless.]


Anyway, I can't help but wonder how badly T-Mobile and Sprint are finding themselves scrod by the recent FCC ruling on an airwaves auction.


So far as I understand it -- The FCC has set the rules so that most of the available bits of wirelessness will end up sold either to Verizon or AT&T. The two second-tier companies, T-Mobile and Sprint, will get something, but they will remain clearly second tier firms when its over. Indeed, the rules seem to lock the tiers into place.


Also, the rules came along with a stern admonition against merging. Presumably if Sprint and T-Mobile did merge then the combined firm could be in some sense first tier, entitled to a seat at the grown-up table at this auction. But no ... that's not allowed. The rules are designed so that the FCC can re-write them to the disadvantage of any parties that seek to merge with each other while the auction is pending. According to the news account to which I've just linked you, one FTC commissioner, Ajit Pai, said: "We all know what the item has in mind here."


What the item has in mind. A strange expression: does the agenda item itself have intentions? Does it have a mind?


Anyway, it seems that the FCC is telling those two firms that not only have they been consigned to the kiddy table, but that any effort to move to the adult table will get them exiled from the feast altogether.


Somebody tell me if I misunderstand.



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