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FCC denies delay request on Verizon AWS deal

Mon, 07/09/2012 - 3:23pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC has denied a request to delay its review of Verizon Wireless' AWS spectrum purchase for the third time since the proceeding got underway.

The decision marks a minor victory for Verizon Wireless, which has lobbied against the extension as it works to get government clearance for the acquisition by late summer.

Public Knowledge and the Rural Telecommunications Group (RTG) asked the FCC last week for more time to file comments on the AWS sale and Verizon's recently announced spectrum swap with T-Mobile USA, an agreement that removed T-Mobile as an opponent to the AWS transaction.

"We are not persuaded, under the circumstances outlined in the motion, that Public Knowledge and RTG have shown good cause that granting the motion for an extension of time would serve the public interest," the Commission said in a Friday decision to move forward with the review as planned, citing its policy that "extensions of time are not routinely granted."

The two groups, both opponents to Verizon's acquisition of additional AWS spectrum, wanted the FCC to extend its existing delay on the transaction for 14 more days to July 24.

The FCC decided in June to stop its informal shot clock on the deal until July 10 to provide more time for parties interested in the transaction to review the proposed license transfer between Verizon and T-Mobile.

The delay was the second the FCC has placed on Verizon's $3.9 billion acquisition of nationwide AWS spectrum from cable operators Cox Communications and SpectrumCo, a group comprising Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Comcast. The Commission decided to push out its review of the deal by three weeks after Verizon and its cable partners failed to produce documents on time.

Verizon and T-Mobile said in late June that they would swap AWS licenses in 218 markets, an agreement that gave T-Mobile spectrum covering 60 million people in cities including Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Detroit; Minneapolis; Seattle; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee; Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Rochester, N.Y. Both operators plan to use AWS spectrum for their LTE networks.

T-Mobile withdrew its opposition to Verizon's AWS purchase the same day it announced the spectrum agreement. The swap with Verizon will only go through if the FCC clears the AWS deal. T-Mobile had been a vocal critic of the transaction, claiming Verizon was hoarding its spectrum.

Verizon has also put its 700 MHz A- and B-block licenses on the table, offering to sell them if the FCC approves its AWS purchase.

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