The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday said it was giving itself more time to review Verizon Wireless' bid to buy spectrum from a group of cable companies.
The commission said it was stopping the 180-day "shot clock" it uses for reviewing such transactions for three weeks because of delays in getting documents it has requested from the companies involved in the transaction.
"The applicants' untimely productions have delayed staff's review of the proposed transactions by at least three weeks," FCC Wireless Bureau Chief Rick Kaplan wrote in a letter Tuesday to the companies involved in the deal. "Assuming the adequacy of the current productions in response to the requests, we do not anticipate further extension of the 180-day period on account of the matters discussed above."
Verizon is seeking approval from the FCC to buy 20 megahertz of spectrum from a joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks and from Cox Communications as part of a separate deal. Verizon and the cable firms also are seeking a green light from the Justice Department for a separate joint marketing agreement to sell each other's services. Verizon says it will use the cable firms' spectrum and additional airwaves it owns now to deploy next-generation 4G LTE wireless service.
Public interest groups and other critics of the deal praised the FCC's move. "At the end of the day, protecting the public interest in a transaction that could well reshape the communications industry in this country is more important than meeting an arbitrary deadline for reviewing a transaction," Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld said in a statement.
The Communications Workers of America argued that the FCC's decision to stop the shot clock highlights the growing concerns with the deal. "Today's FCC decision simply shows that as federal regulators look more closely at this proposal, the more they are seeing the potential problems," CWA Telecommunications Policy Director Debbie Goldman said in a statement.
The union is opposing the deal because it claims it will harm competition in the wireless market and cost U.S. jobs.