Florida joins Justice Department settlement with Sprint, T-Mobile

A smartphone with Sprint logo are seen in front of a screen projection of T-mobile logo, in this picture illustration taken April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Florida has signed on to a consent agreement that the Justice Department reached with Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc to allow the companies to merge, according to a court filing on Wednesday.

While Florida’s decision to join the government is a morale boost for the companies, it may have little practical effect since the two sides already settled.

A group of 17 states and the District of Columbia has filed a separate lawsuit to stop the $26 billion merger, arguing that it will lead to higher prices for consumers. A trial date has been set for Dec. 9.

Florida on Wednesday joined Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota in backing the federal government’s decision to approve the deal on condition that the companies, the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless companies, divest Sprint’s prepaid businesses to satellite television company Dish Network Corp to create a fourth U.S. wireless carrier.

Separately, the Federal Communications Commission has indicated it plans to approve the merger and has begun the process of formally doing so.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman