Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS urge FCC to delay review of Verizon's cable deals

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), T-Mobile USA, MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) and others want the FCC to halt its informal 180-day "shot clock" review of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) $3.9 billion purchase of spectrum from cable companies until Verizon and the MSOs divulge more information about the deals.

The latest back-and-forth comes as the Feb. 21 deadline to file objections to the proposed deals nears. While the companies arguing for the release of details on the deals have made their case known before, they had not yet called for the FCC to stop its review of the agreements.

Sprint was joined by DirecTV, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the Rural Cellular Association. MetroPCS made a separate filing with the FCC. In the filing by Sprint and its co-signers, the companies noted that Verizon and the cable companies have submitted confidential filings about the commercial cross-marketing aspects of their deals, which will allow them to sell each other's services and for the cable companies to become MVNOs of Verizon, but that the filings were subject to "redactions ... relating to pricing, compensation, and related provisions."

"As a result of the incomplete submissions by the applicants, neither the commission nor interested parties have an adequate basis upon which to assess the public interest implications of the proposed transactions," the group wrote. The shot clock should be reset to zero once Verizon and the cable companies provide the details, they wrote.

In December Verizon agreed to pay $3.6 billion for the nationwide AWS spectrum licenses held by SpectrumCo, a joint venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Separately, Verizon said it will buy Cox Communication's 20 MHz of AWS spectrum covering 28 million POPs for $315 million. All of the deals include the option of Verizon reselling cable services and cable companies reselling Verizon service. The FCC has consolidated the purchases into one review; the Department of Justice also needs to approve the deals. Further, a Senate committee on antitrust issues plans to a hold a hearing on the deals perhaps as soon as later this month.

Separately, MetroPCS said that the FCC should gather information on "spectrum utilization, the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the licenses by SpectrumCo and the intentions of the parties, and the competitive impact of the transaction on the roaming and backhaul markets."

In response, Verizon and the cable companies said the FCC should reject these arguments. The companies wrote that if the information were revealed it would harm the companies, and they said that they have already filed the commercial agreements with the Justice Department, which the FCC can review.

"The fact that applicants' commercial competitors, including Sprint, T-Mobile, and DirecTV, are attempting to leverage a spectrum transfer proceeding to gain access to proprietary pricing and marketing information they would never have access to in the normal course underscores why they should not be allowed such access," Verizon and the cable companies wrote. "The redactions made are limited, reasonable, and consistent with past commission rulings. The commission should thus reject the request that unredacted versions of the documents be filed."

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- see this MetroPCS FCC filing
- see this Verizon FCC filing

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