Crow Creek Sioux Tribe files to block Sprint-Softbank deal
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Utility Authority has filed a petition with the FCC to block Sprint's impending 70 percent share transfer to Softbank on the basis that Sprint has "demonstrated a blatant disregard for the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and its regulatory authority over Sprint’s operation on the Crow Creek reservation."
The petition alleges Sprint has failed to pay for services rendered by Native American Telecom (NAT), failed to recognize tribal obligations, and that the carrier "stockpiles unused spectrum and ignores the Crow Creek Tribe's request for possible use of such spectrum."
Citing a "red light" rule, which prevents action on applications in the case of an outstanding debt to the FCC, Crow Creek said the Commission is obligated to see to it that Sprint pays the NAT before it can move forward with its proposed transaction with Softbank.
Enclosed in the filing with the petition is a copy of the letter the Crow Creek Tribe sent Sprint CEO Dan Hesse requesting access to unused spectrum on the tribe's reservation in South Dakota, as well as a copy of an email response from Hesse alerting the Tribe he had received the request and that a Sprint representative would be in contact. Sprint declined to comment for this story, and it has not responded to the tribe's petition.
The language used in the petition, specifically calling Sprint's refusal to pay "self help," matches the language in a 2010 Ars Technica feature on “traffic pumping.”
The term refers to the practice of competitive local exchange carriers (CLEC), like NAT, helping raise the amount of traffic to their service area from major telecoms. According to the article, this can be done by offering anything from free conference calling to phone sex services. Whatever is used to draw in traffic, it's done in order to raise the amount of money they can collect via subsidies put in place by the FCC.
Major telecoms are required to pay these subsidies unless they suspect traffic pumping, in which case they might “self help” and refuse to pay.
In 2010, CTIA sent a letter to the FCC mentioning their discussions on traffic pumping, calling for action from the Commission and listing "wasteful and burdensome" proceedings, including court cases in which Sprint sought refund from NAT for access charges.
This latest development in the epic saga involving Sprint acquiring WiMAX provider Clearwire and Softbank buying a controlling stake in Sprint comes as Dish Network recently trumped Sprint's bid for Clearwire.