Commentary: A merger with dividends for military and veterans

The proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint offers jobs and more to veterans and military families.

By Michael Schindler

For The Herald

T-Mobile has long been an important employer in Washington state, and the company’s growth has been beneficial to our economy — in this state and for the nation as a whole.

As the CEO of Operation Military Family Cares, I felt it was important to provide some additional context as to what T-Mobile has done for our community as it moves ahead with efforts to merge with Sprint. Our team is devoted to programs and solutions that will improve the health, the morale and the finances of our military and veteran families and the industries that hire them. In doing so, we are exposed to a number of for-profit and non-profit efforts that deserve to be showcased — and this merger is worthy of such because of the positive impact it will have on our communities and our military and veteran families.

Recently, T-Mobile has launched an initiative to help veterans that is extensive in both its reach and its benefit. Among some of the provisions are a commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years, a plan to help active-duty personnel and veterans save money on family phone plans called T-Mobile ONE Military, and a partnership with FourBlock to expand its career readiness program online and across 20 cities throughout the country. This means that more veterans will be able to access this incredible program that helps transition military members to civilian employment, boasting a 94 percent success rate.

In addition, the merger will result in an average of 24,960 new jobs each year between 2019 and 2023, including indirect job creation throughout the rest of the economy. This will provide even more opportunities for our veterans and their families.

T-Mobile’s commitment to veterans and the military is evident in the work that they are doing, and these efforts deserve recognition. Many companies support our veterans and military, but T-Mobile’s involvement is deep.

For these reasons alone, I would be inclined to support T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint. But, there’s so much more that will benefit our state and country, such as the potential for a fast 5G network, nationwide.

Internet speeds, particularly on mobile devices, aren’t something people spend a whole lot of time thinking about — unless you’re in an area that doesn’t have much in the way of high-speed networks. Go from a community that regularly has 4G to a rural area and then try and use your favorite apps, and then you’ll know what I’m talking about; there are many pockets across our state and country that don’t have access to fast and reliable wireless service.

These are the communities that would benefit most. T-Mobile and Sprint each have different airwave holdings (called spectrum). By combining these two companies, the availability of spectrum that can be used for wireless networks is considerably expanded, allowing the combined company to reach areas that haven’t seen much in the way of broadband access. Many of these rural areas are where many of our veterans choose to call home. Through this merger and expansion of services, we’ll be able to reach more rural veterans and bring services to them, especially through “telehealth.”

There’s even more good news for the military in this merger. T-Mobile will be investing more than $500 million to build up LTE coverage around military bases, meaning better coverage and 5G speeds for bases too.

Washington state has long been home to a vibrant tech sector, with T-Mobile as a major player in that industry. Nationally, we’re beginning to slip behind other countries when it comes to 5G deployment. This merger will get us back on track to lead on 5G, just like we’ve led other technology advancements. I’m looking forward to see what the new T-Mobile can do, and I appreciate all that they are doing for veterans. Bravo Zulu.

Michael Schindler, a U.S. Navy veteran, is founder and CEO of Operation Military Family Cares, a nonprofit based in Edmonds that serves military and veteran families.

Correction: In an earlier version of this commentary, the estimate of jobs that could result from the merger, 24,960, should have clarified that that number includes indirect job creation in the rest of the economy.

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