Justice Department: FCC can proceed with review of Sprint-SoftBank deal

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, the Justice Department says it's satisfied regarding concerns about potential national security and other issues and has no objection to the deal.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Ed is a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world who enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
2 min read

The Department of Justice has given the Federal Communications Commission the go-ahead to issue a decision on Softbank's proposed buyout of Sprint.

In a letter to the FCC on Friday (PDF), the department said the Justice Department -- including the FBI -- along with the Department of Homeland Security had no problem with the deal proceeding.

"The agencies have reviewed the information provided by the applicants and analyzed the measures undertaken by the applicants to address potential national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues, including supply chain issues," the letter said. "Based on this review, the agencies hereby notify the commission that they have no objection to the grant of the applications."

At the end of January, the Justice and Homeland Security departments had asked the commission to defer action on the deal so the agencies would have time for a thorough review of the proposed purchase of 70 percent of Sprint by Japan-based SoftBank. In part, the DOJ and DHS were concerned that the use of Chinese-made networking gear in Sprint's system could allow for cyberespionage.

But the issue was laid to rest by an agreement that reportedly would, among other things, give the U.S. government veto powers over some equipment purchases made by Sprint and require Sprint to remove Chinese-made equipment from its Clearwire network by the end of 2016.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States completed its own security review and gave its blessing to the deal last week. Now it's up to the FCC to complete its review of the proposed buyout's implications for the U.S. market, and for Sprint shareholders to give their approval.

Unidentified FCC sources told Reuters the commission is close to approving the deal. As for shareholders, they're no doubt also interested in a rival bid from Dish Network. The SoftBank bid is $20.1 billion; the counterbid by Dish is $25.5 billion.