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FCC Adds Data Roaming Condition to Verizon-Cable Spectrum Deal FCC Adds Data Roaming Condition to Verizon-Cable Spectrum Deal

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FCC Adds Data Roaming Condition to Verizon-Cable Spectrum Deal

August 23, 2012

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to approve Verizon Wireless's $3.9 billion purchase of spectrum from a group of cable companies, related joint marketing agreements, as well as the divestiture of spectrum by Verizon through a sale to T-Mobile, which was added to the deal to reduce spectrum concentration.

The Department of Justice reviewed the deal for antitrust violations, and approved with a few alterations to their joint operating agreement. The FCC is required to approve on the transfer of spectrum licenses, and attached conditions that obligate Verizon Wireless to make its network available for data roaming purposes for subscribers of rival carriers.

This drew objections in the form of concurring opinions from Republican commissioners Robert McDowell and Ajit Pai. Currently, an FCC order mandating data roaming access in on appeal in the federal courts. Pai raised the concern that if the data roaming mandate was overturned, Verizon Wireless, "will have been compelled to abide by an otherwise unlawful mandate for five years -- an eternity in this dynamic industry."

McDowell also objected to the "exhaustive discussion" of the Justice Department's antitrust review of the joint marketing aspects deal, under which the cable companies and Verizon will be cross-marketing products and services to their customers. Still, both Republican commissioners voted to approve the deal.

The Communications Workers of America, which sought to block the deal on antitrust grounds, issued a statement slamming the FCC order. "The FCC's decision allowing Big Cable to virtually monopolize wireline and video connections to millions of homes will lead to job loss and hit consumers with higher prices," they said.

Other groups that had proposed conditions on the deal weighed in with mixed feelings. The Alliance for Broadband Competition said the order, "does not go far enough to ensure a competitive landscape" but that the group was glad to have some of its concerns addressed. RCA, which represents rural and regional wireless carriers, would have preferred more spectrum divestiture but backed the data roaming conditions.

Verizon Wireless president and CEO Dan Mead said the company would, "work aggressively to ensure that we put this previously unused spectrum to use quickly to benefit customers." Now that the deal has been approved by regulators, Verizon Wireless plans to proceed with its plan to sell spectrum licenses in the 700MHz lower A and B block. Mead said that, "more than 65 parties have requested and received information about the spectrum we are selling."

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