The FCC threw a kink in Verizon's plans today to acquire a large chunk of AWS spectrum from SpectrumCo, a joint venture of several cable companies, asking the carrier for uncensored versions of heavily-redacted documents it filed several days ago in support of the transaction. Specifically, the feds are asking for unredacted sections pertaining to agreements that would allow Verizon and the associated cable companies to resell each others' services, the spectrum purchase agreement itself, and related documents.
Sprint, T-Mobile, and others have voiced their displeasure with the proposed transaction, saying that it would give Verizon too much bandwidth — of course, T-Mobile has recently argued that it needs additional spectrum to complete a full LTE build-out, so the business justification for T-Mobile's opposition is pretty clear. The FCC has revised the filing deadline for comments to March 26th, so it looks like we may not know until April (at the earliest) whether Verizon's going to be able to add a stable of AWS licenses to its 4G portfolio.
As we mentioned earlier, Verizon and SpectrumCo members had agreed that they'd be able to resell (and, in some cases, rebrand) each others' landline and wireless services as part of the transaction, a deal that has raised competitive concerns of its own. The FCC has announced that "portions" of those agreements need to be considered within the scope of the spectrum transfer — which could have a material effect on Verizon's ability to push the deal through if the feds conclude that the ancillary resale arrangements are anticompetitive — but that those deals are also being analyzed in a "separate inquiry." All told, this deal has a long way to go:
After an initial review of the proposed spectrum license transfers as well as the commercial agreements between Verizon Wireless and several cable companies, the Commission staff has concluded that portions of the commercial agreements are inseparable from the proposed license transfer and related wireless competition issues. Consequently, those portions of the commercial agreements will be examined within the license transfer proceeding.
The additional competitive implications of the commercial agreements are being reviewed in a separate inquiry. This administrative approach will facilitate the fair, timely, and thorough review of the proposed transaction and agreements.