Verizon and several cable companies plans to pool spectrum for an huge push in LTE coverage have raised the ire of rivals, with T-Mobile USA, DIRECTV and others petitioning the FCC for full access to redacted evidence over concerns the move may be anti-competitive. In an open letter [pdf] submitted to the FCC, the ten groups take issue with Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Brighthouse and Cox asserting that access to full documentation isn’t in the public interest. Without that access, they suggest, “interested parties would be unfairly deprived of the information they need to produce a complete portrait of the impact this transaction will have on the public interest” and thus unable to advise the FCC.
“As an institutional matter, the Commission cannot allow Verizon and the cable companies to make unilateral determinations that certain information is not relevant to the Commission’s public interest determination or is too sensitive to be sufficiently protected by Commission safeguards. And as a policy matter, the Commission cannot allow the Applicants to deny production of evidence for the record without which interested parties would be unable to submit the type of fully informed analyses necessary to help inform the Commission’s consideration of the public interest”
The demand is that the FCC “stop the informal 180-day ‘shot clock’ on this transaction” and freeze any approvals to the deals until Verizon and the others release all of the documentation, complete and unredacted. Currently, the argument of the carrier and the cable companies is that they and the FCC are sufficient to decide whether approval is in the public interest.
Verizon announced plans to spend $3.6bn on AWS spectrum held by multiple cable companies back in December 2011, adding a further $315m to the pot when Cox jumped in on the deal. The spectrum – which covers approximately 259m people – is to be used for developing out LTE coverage, while the cable companies would be able to offer wholesale 4G access as part of their own line-up of products.
“If, as the Applicants contend, the redacted materials are not relevant to this proceeding, then after reviewing them, all concerned will be free to turn their attention to other issues in this proceeding” the groups – which include the Rural Telecommunications Group, The Competitive Carriers Association and the Free Press -say. “If, however, those materials are relevant, all concerned will be able to present their observations and concerns for the Commission’s consideration.”