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Influence

Verizon Wireless Settlement Leaves Unions Shifting Focus

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OREM, UT - FEBRUARY 3: A person walks past a Verizon Store as a sign on a window announces the arrival of Apple's iPhone to Verizon February 3, 2011 in Orem, Utah. The iPhone will be available on Veri...(George Frey)

Unions have been up in arms over a controversial deal between Verizon Wireless and other major cable companies. But now that the Justice Department has reached a settlement with the firms, they're cooling their jets. 

The Justice Department announced Thursday that Verizon could move ahead with plans to buy unused airwaves from Comcast and other cable providers to expand their service network, as long as they address concerns that the transactions might harm competition in the service provider markets. The full Federal Communications Commission still has to approve such agreements.

The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers spent the summer lobbying lawmakers to oppose the deal, citing concerns that it would create a monopoly. The CWA also released an ad earlier this month, criticizing the deal for stifling job growth and calling for the FCC to nix it.

But the unions have decided not to pursue further ad campaigns, given the Justice Department settlement.

"We'll continue to point out how regulators aren't acting in the public interest by allowing such an anti-competitive deal to go forward with minimal conditions," CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson told the Alley

Though House Democrats urged the FCC to proceed with caution with the deal in June, the Hill's reaction to the announcement has been understated. The CWA says more than 49 Members of Congress have signed a letter opposing the deal, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised the deal Friday as encouraging global leadership in wireless services.
 
"The world's largest economy should have access to the world's best telecommunications systems," he said in a statement. "This decision, as well as the spectrum auction legislation passed as part of the payroll tax extension, help ensure this. As the telecommunications industry continues to evolve, we must always work to protect fairness in the marketplace and these directives achieve that goal."

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