Verizon Competitors, Advocacy Groups Ask FCC to Stop Shot Clock on Verizon/Cable Spectrum Deal

Public advocacy groups and wireless competitors with concerns about Verizon's purchase of cable spectrum from SpectrumCo and Cox have asked the FCC to stop the clock on its review of the merger until Verizon submits unredacted versions of its cross marketing agreements with cable.

In a letter to the FCC Tuesday, Media Access Project and Public Knowledge teamed with DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile and others to make that request.

Verizon and cable operators have argued that the deals, which have been submitted to the FCC in redacted form, are separate and not at issue in the request for the FCC to grant the transfer of the spectrum licenses. The signatories to the letter, which have been arguing for inclusion of those agreements, aren't so sure, and in any event say the FCC can't determine their impact through redacted documents they say "make it impossible to understand the full ramifications of the documents or to evaluate their relationship to and effect upon the proposed transactions."

If the FCC reviews the unredacted documents and conclude they are not relevant, as Verizon and cable operators contend, everybody can concentrate on other issues, they say.  

But the groups have been arguing that the documents are central and represent a potential cartel arrangement with cable operators and the telco divvying up the wireless and video marketplace via the agreements that "provide the parties to those agreements with the ability to act as agents selling one another's services."

They want the FCC to stop its unofficial 180-day shot clock and toll the deadlines for comment until unredacted contracts are entered into the record for review. The FCC has stopped the clock in various merger reviews for various reasons, including in the AT&T–T-Mobile review last summer.

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.