Supreme Court Takes Up NextWave, FCC Case

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-03-04

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will step into an ongoing spectrum saga and decide whether the Federal Communications Commission had the right to revoke and then re-auction spectrum that was originally sold to NextWave Telecom Inc.

After NextWave filed for bankruptcy and was unable to pay for the spectrum, the FCC revoked it and re-auctioned it to other wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless Inc. and some smaller partners of AT&T Wireless for a combined total of nearly $16 billion.

But last June, an appeals court ruled that the FCC had broken the law and ordered the commission to give the spectrum back to NextWave. The FCC appealed the appeal to the Supreme Court, which is where the case lies now. FCC officials said they were pleased that they may still be able to collect several billion dollars from the countrys major wireless carriers, who say that they need it in order to deploy next-generation services.

"I am gratified that the Supreme Court has decided to review the D.C. Circuits decision in the NextWave case," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. "This will allow the Court to clarify the relationship between public spectrum auctions and the U.S. bankruptcy laws."

NextWave officials said they are frustrated.

"We are disappointed that there will be additional litigation and the accompanying delay to full commercial deployment of our licenses," said Michael Wack, senior vice president with NextWave. "The company is confident, however, that once the Court reviews the merits of the case, it will reach the same conclusion as the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. has done and NextWave will prevail."

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