The Communications Workers of America is voicing concern that the Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a deal between Verizon Wireless and a group of cable firms that would include "weak" conditions.
In a strongly worded letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, CWA President Larry Cohen appeared to concede that the commission is set to approve a marketing agreement between Verizon and the cable firms without all the conditions sought by the union, which represents thousands of Verizon wireline workers.
"The FCC order appears headed for weak conditions that will discourage rather than incent Verizon to invest in FiOS," Cohen wrote in the letter sent on Friday. "This will eventually lead to FiOS abandonment just as current policy has led to DSL dumping. Communities and consumers lose choices, prices increase, and once again, FCC policy leads to jobs being last in line."
The FCC is considering whether to approve the sale of spectrum from the cable firms, which include Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable, to Verizon. The FCC and the Justice Department also are examining a related deal that calls on Verizon and the cable firms to cross-market each others' services and enter into a technology research initiative.
CWA has voiced strong concerns with the marketing deal, saying Verizon and the cable firms are essentially agreeing not to compete for wired customers anymore. The union and other critics note that in many parts of the country, Verizon offers the only wired competition to the cable firms. CWA has been pushing for conditions that would bar them from cross-marketing in areas where Verizon offers wired services and also require the company to continue building out its FiOS fiber Internet, cable, and television service.
"Please do not pretend wireless offers an alternative -- the U.S. cannot be the only global democracy without robust wireline at high speeds," Cohen said.
CWA urged the FCC not to rush to finish its examination before the end of the month, saying the "Department of Justice should have time to work this issue."
Some observers say it appears likely that the FCC will approve the spectrum deal, particularly after Verizon offered to swap spectrum with that transaction's biggest critic, T-Mobile USA, which has since dropped its opposition. Jeffrey Silva, a telecom and tech analyst with Medley Global Advisors, said it appears the marketing agreement will likely also get the green light with conditions, which could include restricting the marketing agreements to areas outside of where Verizon offers its FiOS service.
Silva said, however, that he doesn't think federal regulators would have the authority to force Verizon to expand its FiOS service. "As a practical and legal matter, it's very difficult to force a company to build out" a service, he said.