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Verizon Wireless CEO Defends Cable Deal

The CEO of Verizon Wireless on Tuesday defended the company's bid to buy spectrum from a group of cable operators, saying his firm has proven to be good steward of the public airwaves.

"We're confident the regulators will understand this purchase is good for Verizon Wireless customers and good for the entire broadband economy," Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead said during remarks at the wireless industry group CTIA's annual show in New Orleans.

Verizon is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission to buy spectrum from a joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and from Cox Communications as part of a separate deal. Mead predicted the FCC would make a decision on Verizon's bid to buy the spectrum by mid-summer. Verizon and the cable firms also are seeking Justice Department approval for a cross-marketing deal that involves the firms selling each others' services.

The transactions are opposed by public interest groups and some smaller rivals including T-Mobile USA, which sought and failed to get FCC approval last year to be acquired by AT&T. Critics argue that if Verizon, the nation's biggest wireless provider, obtains even more spectrum, it will harm smaller competitors who may need those airwaves even more to compete. T-Mobile argued in a letter to the FCC last week that Verizon has been "sitting on substantial amounts of AWS spectrum for almost six years."

Mead pushed back against claims that it is "warehousing" spectrum. He noted Verizon has offered to sell two licenses it holds to spectrum it is not currently using if the FCC approves its deal with the cable companies. Verizon has said the A and B licenses it is offering to sell cover dozens of major cities and rural areas including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.

"Our decision to sell the A and B licenses clearly shows we're not interested in warehousing spectrum," said Mead. "No one is forcing us to sell that spectrum. We're selling it because it's the right thing to do for our company and also the right thing to do for our industry."

Mead made his remarks at the start of a round-table discussion with top executives from the nation's four biggest wireless carriers, which in addition to Verizon included AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. In the wake of the failed AT&T-T-Mobile bid, T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm said the company is focused on building its network and attracting new customers.

In his remarks, Spring CEO Dan Hesse stressed the importance of improving the industry's reputation by focusing privacy and security. "If they trust us they will buy from us," he said.

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