Verizon Wireless submitted its application Monday to buy $3.6 billion in spectrum from cable giants, arguing that the deal would benefit consumers by bolstering its networks.
In its filing to the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon Wireless also said that its marketing agreement with cable companies, an arrangement that has sparked concerns among public interest groups and antitrust officials, isn’t subject to government review.
Unlike AT&T’s troubled bid for T-Mobile, Verizon said it isn’t looking to acquire a business. Instead it is only buying airwaves from cable firms Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks who aren’t using the airwaves. So the FCC should not view the deal with the same antitrust standards as a business merger, the nation’s biggest wireless firm said in its Public Interest Statement to the agency.
“Consumers will continue to have all the same choices among wireless providers that they do today,” Verizon Wireless wrote, adding that the review “should be limited.”
The company further argued that since the deal wouldn’t merge businesses, the agency’s review should be done quickly and that the company shouldn’t have to prove the public benefits of the agreement.
But public interest groups disagree. They say the deal would widen the lead Verizon Wireless has over competitors. And a marketing arrangement for Verizon to cross-sell services with cable companies could consolidate the communications market.
They say Verizon Communications’ FiOs television and landline Internet service may get neglected in areas where Verizon Wireless will begin promoting cable services.
Public interest groups called for the FCC and Justice Department to include the marketing arrangement in their antitrust reviews of the deal.
“No matter how forcefully Verizon claims that this is ‘a spectrum-only transaction,’ it is much more than that,” said Andrew Schwartzman, policy director at the Media Access Project. “The FCC’s mandate is to look at the totality of the circumstances to decide if a proposed transfer is in the public interest.”