Policy

Senate to Vet Cable Spectrum Deal

2/06/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Senate Antitrust Subcommittee
chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.)
said that plans are “well underway” on a
hearing on Verizon Wireless’ deal to buy
spectrum from cable operators, a spokesperson
for the senator confirmed.

Kohl did not characterize the hearing,
suggesting it was simply a matter of the
committee doing its oversight job. “The subcommittee
carefully examines questions
about competition in the wireless and video
markets, with the ultimate goal of protecting
consumers and reducing their cable
and cell phone bills, and these deals are no
exception,” he said in a statement.

No date has been set, but a Kohl aide said
the hearing would likely come after the February
recess. No witness list has been finalized
either.

Following a hearing on the proposed
merger of cellphone providers AT&T and TMobile
USA, which was also billed as a spectrum
deal, Kohl asked Justice and the FCC
to block the merger. They ultimately did so.

Verizon has struck a deal to buy the
spectrum assets of SpectrumCo, the cable-
operator consortium, and from Cox
Communications, a former member of
SpectrumCo.

SpectrumCo is a consortium owned by
Comcast (63%), Time Warner Cable (31.2%)
and Bright House Networks (5.3%), which
bought the spectrum in the FCC’s 2006 advanced
wireless services auction along with
Sprint Nextel, which was bought out by the
other consortium members in 2007.

Cox left the consortium in 2009, taking
its spectrum with it. Verizon is offering $3.6
billion for the SpectrumCo holdings and
$325 million for Cox’s spectrum, subject to
FCC approval.

March