Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To Block Verizon Deals With Cable Companies
Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To Block Verizon Deals With Cable Companies
Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To Block Verizon Deals With Cable Companies

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    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
    should not allow Verizon to enter into a complex series of transactions with
    the country’s largest cable companies, nine public-interest groups, led by
    Public Knowledge, said Tuesday.

    In the filing, the groups said that
    Verizon’s arrangements to buy spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and
    Bright House, with a separate deal for Cox, would “would fundamentally
    alter the nature of the telecommunications world in a manner utterly contrary
    to that intended by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.”

    The groups on the filing are: Public
    Knowledge, Media Access Project, the New America Foundation Open Technology
    Initiative, Benton Foundation,1 Access
    Humboldt, Center for Rural Strategies, Future of Music Coalition, National
    Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients, and Writers Guild of
    America, West

    A copy of the filing is here.

    Under the deals, Verizon, the largest
    wireless company, would gain even more spectrum, “aggravating existing anticompetitive problems with
    spectrum aggregation,” the filing said.  In addition, under related agreements, Verizon agreed to
    sell the video services of the cable companies.  Those side agreements “give rise to serious concern
    that not only will these providers decline to compete further with one another,
    they will actively collude with one another,” the groups said. 

    Verizon and the cable companies also agreed to set up a
    “Joint Operating Entity” to develop new technologies to link voice,
    video and wireless traffic.  The
    technology that could result would be a new industry standard controlled by
    companies that control approximately 40% of the wireless market, 40% of the
    residential broadband markets, and 40% of the residential video market  and have sizable program holdings
    through Comcast’s ownership of NBCU.

    “To ‘supersize’ Verizon Wireless with additional
    spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and Cox so that the
    largest wireless operator can better promote the services of the largest
    incumbent cable operators directly undermines the pro-competitive policies of
    the 1996 Act and is thus contrary to the public interest,” the groups

    An additional factor is the secrecy under which the deals
    have been presented to the FCC, the groups said, arguing, “And where, as here, the Applicants have
    refused to make complete copies of pertinent
    documents available in the record—even under the strictest confidentiality—alarm bells
    should ring with deafening insistence.”

    side operating agreements can’t be fixed and should be denied by the
    Commission, the groups said, arguing that the public does  “not even have access to the full
    text of the contracts between the parties, and because, in any event, the
    gravest threat could come down the road, as the companies modify the scope of
    their cooperation.”

    spectrum sale should similarly be turned down, but if the FCC decides to grant
    it, there should be requirements that Verizon allow data roaming on its network
    and that the FCC impose requirements that Verizon build out its spectrum or
    make the spectrum available on secondary markets.