Dems Want FCC, DOJ Eyes on Spectrum Sale


Washington — Saying they want to make sure
it squares with the Telecom Act’s goal of competition
between cable providers and telcos, a group of
House Democrats has asked the Federal Communications
Commission and the Justice Department
to look closely at the impact of the proposed sale by
cable operators to Verizon Wireless of a block of advanced

The FCC is
presumably already
that , having
sought followup
ion from the
companies involved.
But the
legislators —
who released
their letters to the agencies — want to make sure
those review bodies keep congressional intent in
mind in considering the competitive aspects of the
proposed arrangements.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Conyers (DMich.)
led a group of more than a half dozen House members
in pressing the government to consider the impact of
the deal on competition and consumers.

The lawmakers expressed concerns about both the
sale itself and related cross-marketing agreements
that allow Verizon Wireless and cable operators Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and
Bright House Networks to jointly promote their respective

The letters to the FCC and DOJ take no position on
the merger. They simply ask the agencies to “examine
this proposed transaction for its potential impact on
the communications landscape and the goals of the
Telecommunications Act of 1996” — promoting competition
between cable and telephone companies.

Some deal critics and Democratic legislators have
expressed concerns the deal will mean Verizon Communications
and the major cable operators will start
cooperating, rather than competing — dividing up services,
cross-promoting them and squeezing out competitors
via the marketing agreements and a deal to
collaborate on seamlessly integrating wired and wireless

The FCC is now in day 126 of its review of the proposed
$3.9 billion sale of advanced wireless spectrum to
Verizon. The cable operators in SpectrumCo., as well as
former member Cox, have said that they could not make
a business case for developing that spectrum, bought
at auction in 2006, into a standalone wireless service in
competition to Verizon Wireless, AT&T and others.

The FCC is all for developing more fallow wireless
spectrum, particularly the beachfront block Verizon
is eyeing to help build out 4G service, but would the
commission would also like to see more price and
service competition in the wireless space.