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Background: Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the application of Verizon, Comcast, and other cable companies to transfer spectrum, cross-market each other’s products and establish a Joint Operating Entity to develop and control new technology. Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a proposed settlement with the same companies, subject to a number of conditions designed to limit the anticompetitive effects of the agreements.
The FCC's Order can be found here.
The following statement can be attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, President & CEO of Public Knowledge:
“Now that it has blessed agreements that turn former competitors into allies, the FCC must recognize that the facilities-based wired broadband competition policy has failed to keep prices low, encourage broadband build-out, and protect consumers. Particularly in light of the FCC's recent Broadband Progress Report, finding that broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion, the FCC must now seriously pursue new policies to stimulate competition in wireline internet access service--or resign itself to regulating a broadband monopoly.
“The Order's data roaming and build-out conditions on Verizon's spectrum purchase may mitigate some of the problems created by recent spectrum aggregation by Verizon and AT&T, but the effectiveness of these conditions will depend on how rigorously they are enforced. The FCC must actively ensure that Verizon complies with these conditions to encourage competition in the wireless space.
“The FCC rightly asserted jurisdiction over the joint marketing, wireless reseller, and JOE agreements. But it has merely set up a system where parties can file complaints. While this may allow parties to bring attention to anticompetitive or otherwise illegal conduct, it does nothing to affirmatively prevent it. The JOE is still a vehicle that empowers former competitors to suppress new rivals. The FCC should have protected competition by blocking the commercial agreements altogether.
“Going forward, the FCC must ensure that it resolves complaints in the new open docket quickly and effectively to discourage Verizon and Comcast from trying to use this deal to stifle competition.”