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Jun 24, 2022·edited Jun 29, 2022Liked by Matt Stoller

The Jeld-Wen saga is the under-covered antitrust story of the last few years.

It's pretty much impossible to a build house or other structure without windows. The consolidation of window manufacturers and distributors in the Northwestern part of the US was leading to increased lead times for several years before COVID. Since COVID it's become an absolute disaster. Lead times on windows for even the simplest homebuilding project is now several months, with unclear delivery timelines.

The Jeld-Wen decision will, hopefully, help to alleviate this in part. But the fact that the consolidation in an important regional industry was allowed to happen at all was a tremendous regulatory failure with enormous downstream effects.

Stories about national phone carriers whose names are well-known to consumers are sexy (and important). But the really catastrophic choke points in the economy are largely hidden from consumers and involve businesses that supply other businesses.

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It's not quite that simple. TMO was on the auction block for years before the Trump administration. AT&T was the best fit since they used the same signaling tech (Sprint and Verizon used a different tech), although today LTE and 5G are industry standards so that's no longer an issue. Legere was put in charge of a company that was doomed, so why not have a little fun? When his gamble worked out and then the merger with AT&T was blocked, suddenly TMO was in the catbird seat. The agreement had a penalty clause that gave TMO a big chunk of national spectrum, plus the 700MHz band they got from the LTE auctions.

Sprint, OTOH, had a lot of spectrum that wasn't as useful and were still behind on tech upgrades. Wall Street wasn't going to finance their network upgrade, so Softbank put them on the auction block. AT&T and Verizon weren't going to try because it was clear the FCC wasn't going to allow for mega-mergers (remember that during this time they blocked the Comcast acquisition of Time Warner cable systems), so they sat back. Meanwhile Sprint was late to launch LTE and had an eroding customer base.

But Sprint did have spectrum, and lots of it. Even if it wasn't in an ideal spot "on the dial," bandwidth is bandwith. They were in no position to use it. TMO was. And TMO had bigger plans than handsets. The holy grail these days is fixed point wireless (home Internet service). Basically replace your cable company with your wireless company. Solves the "last mile" problem, but requires a lot of spectrum/bandwith. AT&T and Verizon are using the 33cm band, which are very short range and directional frequencies. This means building out a network of "pico cells" in neighborhoods, fiber back-haul, etc. It will work but takes time and a lot of captial. TMO is using the spectrum they got from Sprint and AT&T, which is more like traditional handset spectrum in coverage, so they have a big short term advantange.

So yes your cell phone bill might be going up, but your cable bill might be going down. All the way down to $0. TMO is marketing $50/month for 250 Mbps service, no data caps, and self-install. If Sprint would have been able to roll out 5G on their own things might be different, but no player had enough bandwidth avilable to do it without building out a costly network.

Not saying it's right, but in a capital-intensive business if Wall Street isn't going to finance your tech upgrades you're going to wither and die. Softbank decided Sprint wasn't worth the effort. They could have sold to another equity firm, or a tiny cell company like Union Telephone, but then they'd be right back where they started, with a bunch of spectrum and no money to utilize it.

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T-Mobile and the wireless industry. With regards to rising prices you left out the cost of developing and implementing new technology. I have no need for 5G because I don't play interactive video games on my phone. I still have not figured out what non-government businesses and applications really need to have 5G, maybe I'm ignorant. The only entities that thinks it needs 5G are governments, so they can have video surveillance on every lamp post. Having one less cell company makes it easier for the Federal government to exert its influence for the sake of controlling its subjects. 5G is not really intended for the average cell consumer, its to control that consumer.

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How about a pro-compete clause on Gov't work agreements keeping them from joining industries they have been "monitoring' ?

Let' say a decade and a day.

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LOL! at the concept of companies cheating on ethics exams! I suppose that means they don't consider cheating a violation of ethics - one has to wonder what other activity they don't consider an ethics violation ...

As for the Cineplex bit - I don't think that idea is strictly a Canadian one - I remember as a kid (I am "old") going to a local theater to see all sorts of movies - and drive-ins as well - now they are gone ...

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Were Legere's statements under oath?

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@Matt, thanks for your coverage and analysis here. Might the decision come down to something as unpredictable as the ideological bent of the particular trial/appellate judges who hear the case, and which President(s) nominated them?

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Somewhat, but the judge also listens to the FCC and DOJ Antitrust Division.

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Which are likewise screened and appointed (like SC Justices) by pols with "ideological bents" - - isn't that what is behind your cheering on of the current group? The folks running them now seem to have a more "honest" bent - but they, in turn, are appointed and oft continue to serve at the end of their terms only at "the pleasure of those who appointed them" - the SC justices have an unlimited term, prior to death, but nevertheless were "appointed" by folks with - an ideological bent.

To me that underscores the importance of really paying attention to whom we put in office - the "appointers" - remember the cry "think of the SC!" when encouraging folks to "vote Blue, no matter who" but that hasn't always worked out so well, has it ...

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