August 23, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today approved the pending spectrum and marketing deals between Verizon Wireless and several cable companies. In addition to conditions placed on the deal last week by the Department of Justice, the FCC’s approval comes with the condition that the agency will allow the public to file complaints or petitions in the event that the parties violate the conditions of the deal or engage in anti-competitive conduct related to the joint-marketing agreements. The Commission will also require Verizon to accelerate the buildout of the newly acquired spectrum, as well offer data roaming on commercially reasonable terms and conditions.
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, agreed that the conditions proposed by the Commission were needed and praised the ability of the public to file complaints. However, the group also questioned how the consolidation of spectrum by the wireless leader, combined with the nontraditional marketing agreements with cable giants, would help better competition across the wireless, broadband and video markets for consumers.
“The FCC was wise to put further conditions on this deal. It’s especially promising that consumers will have to ability to help ensure that Verizon and the cable companies are towing the line,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “While some of our concerns with this transaction remain, what is really troubling in light of this deal is the continued trend of decreasing competition in the telecommunications marketplace and the rise of wireless duopolies and regional cable monopolies. Consumers already face limited options when choosing a broadband and wireless provider – oftentimes down to one provider in a market. It is time that we start finding ways to bring competition back to the market, rather than limiting the consequences of less competition.”
Verizon is seeking to purchase spectrum licenses from SpectrumCo, a joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House, as well as licenses from Cox. Verizon Wireless and the Cable Companies will also enter into joint marketing agreements that would allow each individual cable company and Verizon Wireless to sell one another’s products in certain areas. In its approval last week, the Department of Justice addressed concerns with the deal by limiting the scope and duration of the proposed joint marketing agreements.
The agency’s approval, in a 5-0 vote, was the final regulatory hurdle for the pending transaction.