FCC to Approve Spectrum Transfer Deals Between Verizon, Cable Companies

The Federal Communication Commission's action follows Verizon's consent agreement with U.S. Department of Justice and the Verizon agreement to sell some of its current spectrum holdings to competing wireless carrier T-Mobile.

The Federal Communications Commission will approve the sale of spectrum by a group of cable companies to Verizon Wireless, according to a statement released Aug. 16 by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The announcement follows the completion of an antitrust review by the U.S. Justice Department and a consent agreement by Verizon and the cable companies that made fundamental changes to their respective spectrum transfer agreements and a number of binding pro-competitive commitments.

Genachowski said that the "unprecedented" divestiture of spectrum to T-Mobile, as well as a commitment to build out new spectrum and enhance roaming obligations played a major role in the decision by the FCC to allow the sale to move forward.

"Approval of the substantially modified transaction will promote the public interest and benefit consumers in several ways. By advancing U.S. leadership in 4G LTE [Long-Term Evolution] deployment, the transaction marks another step in our effort to promote the U.S. innovation economy and make state-of-the-art broadband available to more people in more places," Genachowski said in a prepared statement.

"The transaction will preserve incentives for deployment and spur innovation while guarding against anti-competitive conduct. And vitally, it will put approximately 20MHz of prime spectrum-spectrum that has gone unused for too long-quickly to work across the country, benefiting consumers and the marketplace."

Genachowski said that his office will be distributing a draft order Aug. 16 to the other members of the FCC for their votes. Three of the five commission members are required to vote in favor of the spectrum deal to approve it.

Approval of the sale of the SpectrumCo cable company AWS spectrum hinged on the acceptance of a series of commercial agreements between Verizon and the cable companies involved. Initially, those commercial agreements limited Verizon's sales of its own FiOS service and required the cable companies to sell Verizon Wireless devices and services. The new agreement with the DOJ eliminated any restriction on the sale and build-out of the FiOS service, and added incentives to continue the build-out of that service. FiOS is a combination of Internet access, telephone, and cable television service, which operates over a fiber-optic network

In addition, Verizon Wireless agreed with the FCC to allow significantly increased data roaming by its competitors on Verizon's wireless network. While Verizon filed suit in April to stop the FCC from requiring such roaming, the company subsequently filed an ex parte agreement saying it would follow the FCC's roaming requirements for the next five years.

Verizon Wireless also consented with the FCC to build out its currently unused spectrum aggressively. This spectrum build-out will include spectrum that the company plans to use for LTE, including the spectrum it's buying from the cable companies. A number of groups had expressed concern that Verizon Wireless would allow the spectrum to remain unused for years.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...