FCC: SNR, NorthStar Still Controlled by Dish

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

As expected, the FCC has concluded that SNR Wireless LicenseCo and Northstar Wireless still don't get the bidding credits they sought in the 2015 AWS-3 auction.

The two companies teamed with Dish Network to acquire $10 billion worth of spectrum licenses in the AWS-3 auction. But the FCC subsequently concluded that Dish's majority financial interest in the companies were controlling interests that should be attributable to Dish, which meant the companies were ineligible for the $1.9 billion (Northstar) and $1.4 billion (SNR Wireless) bidding credits they had applied for.

Dish had put up most of the $10 billion.

Related: MMTC, NABOB Say FCC Should Help Northstar, SNR Cure DE Applications

The companies appealed the decision in court.

That federal court in August 2017 upheld the finding that Dish exercised de facto control, but also held that the FCC, under then chair Tom Wheeler, failed to notify the companies that if the FCC found they did not qualify for the credits, worth billions of dollars, the FCC would not give them a chance to cure that problem and instructed the FCC to correct.

Related: Dish Makes Case for AWS-3 Bids

The FCC under new management--Chairman Ajit Pai--and in response to the court remand, in January told the companies to renegotiate with Dish and other parties and file the necessary documents to show they now qualify for the credit.

The companies revised the agreements, but the FCC has now concluded that upon reviewing those, Dish continues to exercise de facto control, and that neither company--nor Dish as the de facto controller-- qualifies for the $3.3 billion.

They have already defaulted on the licenses they sought bidding credits for--they paid full price for others--so they won't owe the $3.3 billion, though they may be subject to default payments when the licenses are re-auctioned.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.