T-Mobile USA, which had its acquisition by AT&T blocked by regulators a few months ago, is urging the FCC to block Verizon’s purchase of spectrum from cable companies for $3.9 billion, reports the AP.
In its filing (pdf), T-Mobile, the No. 4 cellphone carrier, told the FCC that Verizon’s acquisition with cable companies would place an “excessive concentration” of wireless spectrum in Verizon’s hands.
Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 carrier, took a more measured stance. It didn’t ask the FCC to block the deal outright, but said the agency should look closely at the wider implications of the deal, including the provision that Verizon Wireless and the cable companies market each other’s products in their stores.
MetroPCS, the fifth-largest cellphone company, also urged the FCC to block the deal. It said the parties had not provided enough information to prove that the acquisition was in the public interest.
Ten public-interest groups filed their own motions (pdf) to block the deal on Tuesday, ahead of a filing deadline on Wednesday. Last week, a New Jersey’s Division of Rate Counsel, a state agency that advocates for consumers, asked the FCC to block the deal, also citing the spectrum accumulation issue.
The cross-marketing has already started in some areas, with Verizon Wireless stores selling Comcast cable service and Comcast stores touting Verizon cellphone plans.
To Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, these deals reek of collusion, which could decrease competition and raise prices for consumers. The Justice Department is also reviewing the deal, because of concern Verizon may let its FiOs wireline television and Internet service atrophy.
Verizon Wireless says it means unused spectrum will become available to wireless subscribers. The Communications Workers of America labor union told the FCC that it does not oppose the sale of spectrum to VerizonWireless because if feels unused airwaves should be quickly put to use.
In early December, Verizon Wireless announced a deal to buy spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks for $3.6 billion. They hoped to close the deal by the middle of this year.