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By Henry A. Waxman, Special to CALmatters

Reliable, fast, and accessible consumer wireless connectivity has been the catalyst for much of California’s leadership on innovation.

It’s not just Apple, Google, Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. A new generation of exciting innovators will redefine how we tackle critical issues in the years ahead. The ability to connect and share data instantly will be the fuel of our state’s vibrant economic engine.

Now 5G, the next generation of wireless technology and networking, is arriving. All indications show it will enable an even greater—and more inclusive—wave of innovation.

What will 5G make possible? Cities that are smarter, greener, and healthier through a fully-realized Internet of Things, where connected cars, smart sensors, and edge computing will make it possible to control how our world works like never before.

Connected devices will facilitate more transparent supply chains, more efficient logistics, and cleaner and more accountable industries. 5G will also lead to healthier people, thanks to advances in healthcare delivery through telemedicine and mHealth wearables that continue to emerge.

Making this future a reality requires bold measures to build and power a world-class 5G infrastructure. This infrastructure can’t be built overnight.

But the California Public Utilities Commission will soon review a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile that can bring that infrastructure to California more quickly, in a way that benefits consumers throughout our state and nation.

As a member of Congress, I always studied proposed mergers with a critical eye. In my 40 years as a U.S. Representative, including my time as chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, I worked to protect California consumers. This led me to oppose concentrations of power, especially if such actions would lead to less competition, higher prices, or lower-quality products.

But after working with and for T-Mobile and after studying the merits of this transaction, I can say with confidence that the Sprint-T-Mobile merger will benefit Californians.

In fact, I couldn’t imagine a better company to lead us into the 5G era. T-Mobile already has disrupted the wireless market by putting consumers first. The company ditched two-year service contracts, went all-in on unlimited data, and invested in its industry-leading customer service.

Though T-Mobile is much smaller than AT&T and Verizon, its consumer-centric practices have driven the competition to follow suit, helping more Californians gain access to reliable phone service and mobile internet.

This is the kind of leadership consumers should demand as the road to our 5G future is paved.

Importantly, the New T-Mobile has pledged to invest nearly $40 billion to deploy 5G from coast to coast. And only by combining T-Mobile’s low-band and Sprint’s mid-band wireless spectrum can we realize a network that is far-reaching and high-powered.

Critics argue the merger will take the industry from four players to three. In reality, the merger will create a stronger competitor to the giants, AT&T and Verizon. The combined company will be able to compete more effectively than either could on its own.

The New T-Mobile will also have greater incentives to win over customers with competitive pricing, innovative services, and better coverage in urban and rural areas. The competition will drive down prices and increase service.

Public Utilities Commission members have many factors to consider whenever they evaluate a merger. But in my view, it comes down to a single question: Will California consumers benefit from this? For the T-Mobile-Sprint merger, the answer is yes. That’s why the Public Utilities Commission should swiftly approve this merger.

Henry A. Waxman, who represented Los Angeles in Congress from 1975-2015, is chairman of Waxman Strategies and an advisor to T-Mobile, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.