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Wisconsin joins multistate cellphone-merger settlement

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin and 10 other states have reached a deal with the communications companies T-Mobile and Sprint to settle litigation challenging the companies’ merger, Attorney General Josh Kaul said Thursday.

The states — Wisconsin, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia — along with the District of Columbia challenged the merger in federal court in New York in 2019. A judge last month ruled in the companies’ favor.

The settlement effectively ends the litigation. The deal calls for the companies to protect low-income subscribers and extend access to under-served places.

The companies must make low-cost plans available for at least five years, extend T-Mobile’s rate plans for at least two years and offer no-cost broadband internet service every year for five years, as well as a free mobile hotspot device, to 10 million qualifying low-income households nationwide not now connected to broadband. All T-Mobile and Sprint employees must be offered similar positions in the new company, known as New T-Mobile. The company must reimburse the states for the costs of their investigation and litigation up to $15 million.

A state law Wisconsin Republicans passed in 2018 requires Kaul, a Democrat, to get permission from the Legislature’s GOP-controlled budget committee to enter settlements. Kaul didn’t ask the panel to join this settlement, however. His spokeswoman, Gillian Drummond, said state statutes consider the attorney general a district attorney in antitrust lawsuits.

Since district attorneys don’t need the Legislature’s permission to settle cases Kaul didn’t in this instance, she said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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