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Free Press Asks FCC to Block Verizon/SpectrumCo

Free Press has filed a petition to deny Verizon's purchase of advanced wireless spectrum from cable operators, saying it would tilt the playing field toward a wireless/wireline cartel of cable and telco operators via separate joint marketing agreements.

Feb. 21 is the deadline for those petitions, and according to a copy supplied to B&C, Free Press brands cable a "cartel" that would be teaming with Verizon through various exchange-of-service deals that take them on a path to "collusion, not competition."

"Neither the spectrum sale nor the joint-marketing agreements that are part of these transactions would succeed as stand-alone deals," said Free Press. "And while Verizon wants this spectrum, it does not need it, and we don't believe it intends to put this highly valuable resource to its most immediate and efficient use."

The cable "cartel" Free Press refers to is SpectrumCo, a consortium of Comcast (majority owner), Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks, as well as Cox through a separate proposed deal.

Free Press is concerned that the deal will give Verizon more than a third of all mobile broadband spectrum as measured by value. "Not only will these transactions doom the wireless market to permanent duopoly status," says the petition, "but their associated joint cartelization agreements will further tilt the wireline market towards a cable monopoly, forever ending any hope of wireless-wireline or cable-telco competition."