FCC Still Vetting Dish-Related AWS-3 Bids

The FCC has signaled that winning AWS-3 bidder applications from Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless have been accepted for filing—those are the companies majority owned by Dish—but made it clear that was not a determination of whether those would be approved, or designated bidding credits that would save them billions of dollars would be granted.

In fact, a decision on those credits and the licenses won by those bidders likely can't come until at least May 26.

Dish has been criticized for funding those companies, which then sought bidding credits as designated entities, a credit meant to boost smaller company participation in spectrum auctions.

In a blog post, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau chief Roger Sherman made it clear what the FCC's move was and was not.

"Today’s Accepted for Filing Public Notice is just that – a notice to the public that certain applications are now complete and available for public review," he said. "The Notice does not opine on the merits of any of the applications, nor does it make a finding that any of the applicants who have requested small business bidding credits are eligible for – or will receive – them."

It is the second round of "accepted" applications, which simply means that "following its initial review of the applications, including requesting additional information from some applicants, [Wireless] Bureau staff has determined that nine more AWS-3 license applications are now complete."

Now the Dish-related license applications from Northstar and SNR will be put out for comment to the public, including a 10-calendar-day window for petitions to deny—look for some of those to be filed given the criticism—Verizon, for one, claims Dish illegally colluded in the bids. Then oppositions are due May 18 and replies May 26.

Sherman signaled the vetting process was far from over at any rate given the bidding credit issue.

"The most challenging part of our review is therefore just starting. While we previously granted several uncontested applications representing $30 billion in winning bids,  there are now 19 applications that are undergoing a thorough, substantive review by Bureau staff, and one remaining application that has not yet been accepted for filing.  The applications that seek small business bidding credits are the most complex, given that they detail the nature of the applicant’s ownership and control structure, and require the review of the related corporate agreements that in some cases consist of a highly complex set of rights and obligations, including agreements pertaining to equity ownership, funding, joint bidding, and management services."

"These are complex and important matters, and we have a long way to go in our review before we reach final conclusions on all of the applications."

“I expect the Commission to do the necessary due diligence to explore any and all issues as to whether Dish, SNR and Northstar Wireless, as well as any other potential licensees, fully complied with its rules,” said FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly.

“Today’s announcement of Connect America Fund support for delivering broadband to over 4 million locations in rural America is a significant step forward in increasing opportunity for more  Americans to benefit from Internet connectivity," said USTelecom President Walter McCormick. "Price cap companies [which includes his members] will now begin detailed network analysis to evaluate the offers of support, with the goal of expanding broadband to as many rural areas as possible given the terms of the offers. The task of extending broadband networks to these remote areas will take some years, and we look forward to working with the commission and the communities involved to make real progress in expanding broadband connectivity. We congratulate the commission and staff on their work, and hope that the final steps to completing the Connect America Fund, including development of a process for competitive bidding, will be put in place shortly. ”

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.