The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission recommended that the agency approve the merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint based on what he called the companies’ “significant commitments” to expand rural broadband service, build a robust 5G network and sell off Boost Mobile.
The chairman, Ajit Pai, said that the steps the companies had outlined in seeking the government’s blessing for the $26 billion deal were in line with the commission’s goals.
“Two of the F.C.C.’s top priorities are closing the digital divide in rural America and advancing United States leadership in 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity,” Mr. Pai said in a statement. “The commitments made today by T-Mobile and Sprint would substantially advance each of these critical objectives.”
By securing Mr. Pai’s recommendation, the companies cleared a key hurdle toward creating a potentially strong challenger to the top two wireless providers in the United States, Verizon and AT&T.
Democrats and consumer advocates have criticized the proposed transaction, arguing that it would lead to higher prices.
In addition to their pledges on rural broadband and 5G service and on finding a buyer for Boost Mobile, a prepaid wireless service owned by Sprint, the companies reiterated an earlier commitment not to raise prices for consumers for three years after their deal is completed.
Mr. Pai said the companies’ moves had persuaded him that a merger would not harm consumers.
“I believe that this transaction is in the public interest,” he said.
Sprint shares rose as much as 26 percent in early trading after Mr. Pai’s announcement. T-Mobile was up about 6 percent.