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FCC Nears Verizon/SpectrumCo OK

According to sources inside and outside the FCC, the commission is close to approving Verizon’s $3.9 billion purchase of wireless spectrum from four big cable operators (SpectrumCo)—with one caveat. The Justice Department is still eyeing associated marketing agreements, and final approval likely won’t come unless the operators and Verizon consent to modify or drop those deals.

If they do, approval would likely come in August. The FCC still has to vet comments it solicited after Verizon said it would trade some spectrum it acquired from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House with T-Mobile. That trade would make the SpectrumCo deal even more FCCfriendly by reducing the number of markets where Verizon would have concentrations of spectrum above an informal FCC cap to only a handful.

Deal opponents were weighing in last week, including Democratic legislators and Free Press. But if the cable operators and Verizon are willing to compromise on the marketing agreements—they declined to comment on that prospect—the deal will likely be done by mid-August, which would beat the FCC’s informal 180-day shot clock.