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FCC prolongs Verizon AWS review on document issues

Wed, 05/02/2012 - 2:29pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC has tacked three weeks onto its review of Verizon's AWS spectrum purchase after the company and its partners failed to produce documents on time.

The Tuesday decision is expected to push out the anticipated closing of the $3.9 billion sale of nationwide AWS licenses to Verizon by Cox Communications, Comcast, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable.

Spokesman Ed McFadden said Verizon now expects the FCC to end its review by late July or early August, later than the "mid-summer" close date cited by CFO Fran Shammo during a recent earnings call.

"This brief extension keeps the review process moving and on track while providing additional time for parties to review the submitted documents," McFadden said.

The FCC’s decision is a small victory for Sprint and a number of other groups that recently asked for an extension of the review process.

They complained that Verizon and the four cable operators missed deadlines for producing documents and then made them available in an inaccessible file format.

Confirming delays with document production, the FCC said none of the five companies in the transaction met a March 22 deadline to provide additional documentation, including information about a marketing and cross-selling arrangement forged at the same time as the spectrum deal.

"Nearly two-thirds of the responsive documents the applicants have submitted to date were submitted after April 6, and more than half of the applicants' total production was submitted after April 19," the FCC said.

Verizon Wireless produced 4,000 documents by April 5, "but in light of deficiencies Commission staff identified in that initial production, the company's response grew to more than 50,000 documents as of April 27. Cox and Bright House Networks did not submit the great majority of responsive documents in proper form until April 24."

The Commission did not confirm complaints about obscure file formats but said an offer this week to produce documents in PDF format "will assist access." Verizon and the other companies in the spectrum deal on Monday offered to provide PDF versions of files and open their Washington, D.C., law offices to outside parties in the transaction for additional access to documents.

The "untimely productions" of documents has delayed the review process by at least three weeks, prompting it to push out its timeline by 21 days, the Commission said.

The FCC does not anticipate further extensions "assuming the adequacy of current productions."

Comcast declined to make a statement on the delay. Cox also declined specific comment on the FCC's ruling but said it would "continue to comply with the approval process." Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks did not reply to requests for comment.

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