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Cable ops divulge Verizon marketing deals to FCC

Fri, 01/20/2012 - 2:13pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Four cable companies selling a massive swath of AWS spectrum to Verizon Wireless for nearly $4 billion have decided to tell the FCC about the extensive marketing deals that go along with the transactions, but they don't want the details made public.

Cox Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks said the cross-marketing agreements shouldn't be part of the FCC's review of the spectrum sale but decided to hand over the documents "to avoid undue delay."

"Those Commercial Agreements have no bearing on whether the spectrum sale is in the public interest, do not require Commission approval and, for several reasons, do not need to be part of the formal record in this proceeding," the cable operators said in separate letters posted to the FCC's website on Thursday.

The companies want the details of the resale arrangements kept out of the public record.

The spectrum sale goes far beyond a simple license swap. It includes provisions that allow the companies to sell each other's services and gives the cable operators the right to resell Verizon Wireless service on a wholesale basis. The companies have also formed a joint venture to create new products that combine wireless and wireline services.

Competitors to Verizon Wireless and the cable operators have asked the FCC to include the marketing arrangements in its review and want the information made public.

"The assignment of CMRS spectrum represented by the applications appears to be only one small part of what could be a significant realignment of the competitive landscape in these industries," DirecTV, Sprint, C Spire Wireless and T-Mobile USA said in a letter posted to the FCC's website yesterday. The letter was signed by a number of public interest groups, including the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge.

The back and forth over the disclosure of the marketing deals came as the FCC set deadlines in its review of the AWS acquisitions. Verizon announced in December it was buying 122 AWS licenses from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, as well as another 30 AWS licenses from Cox. Together, the licenses cover about 94 percent of the U.S. population.

The cable operators purchased the nationwide chunk of AWS spectrum for $2.4 billion during the FCC's 2006 auction but never fulfilled their wireless ambitions.

Parties opposed to the transaction have until Feb. 21 to file petitions to deny with the FCC. Groups supporting the deals will then have until March 2 to file their rebuttals. Replies to the second round of comments will be due March 12.

The FCC uses an informal 180-day shot clock as a loose deadline for its reviews of mergers and acquisitions.

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