A key Senate Judiciary Committee member said Wednesday he is planning a hearing on Verizon’s spectrum purchase deal with cable companies that includes a controversial marketing arrangement.
Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights subcommittee, said the hearing will include a review of a cross-marketing agreement between Verizon Wireless and cable firms including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House.
The hearing will likely take place after Feb. 23, the end of the Presidents’ Day recess. The panel hasn’t yet decided on witnesses.
The Justice Department has begun an inquiry on whether the marketing deal could potentially curb competition for high-speed Internet access into homes. Verizon Communication’s FiOs service directly competes with cable Internet service providers.
“Plans are well underway for a hearing to examine the impact of Verizon’s spectrum purchase from a number of cable companies and a separate marketing agreement to cross-sell each other’s products,” Kohl said in a release. “The subcommittee carefully examines questions about competition in the wireless and video markets, with the ultimate goal of protecting consumers and reducing their cable and cell phone bills, and these deals are no exception.”
Comcast and other cable firms have argued that a marketing deal should not be included in federal regulatory reviews of mergers. They say the purchase of airwaves should be reviewed specifically for how the transaction affects wireless concentration in certain markets.
Public interest groups, however, have argued that Verizon would not be encouraged to promote its own broadband Internet service as a competitor to cable.