Public Knowledge Statement On Verizon/Cable Filing

Verizon and its cable partners defended their spectrum-purchase deal and accompanying cross-marketing arrangements in a filing late Friday with the FCC.

The following is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge:

"The argument from Comcast and partners that the FCC should stay out of the joint marketing deals with the country's largest cellular company is, frankly, absurd.  The cross-marketing deals are as much a part of this deal as the spectrum -- announced together in the same release, offered to other cable companies. 

"As we explained to the FCC earlier, the side agreements create a real danger that our communications markets will move from competition to collusion to cartel.  Rather than address these concerns, Verizon and its cable partners continue to withhold key parts of the agreements while insisting that the FCC has no role in approving them.

"When Comcast bought NBC-Universal, it refused to talk about online video until regulators took a firm stand. Comcast, Verizon and the other cable partners now resort to the same playbook by ignoring the issue of its anti-competitive agreements in the hope regulators will let them slip by. Particularly offensive is the suggestion by Verizon and the cable companies that the FCC simply take a pass on these competitive concerns because the Department of Justice can do the job of analyzing these agreements so much better.

"The FCC can choose concentration, or it can choose competition.  It should choose to make the wireless and broadband industries more competitive, not less.

"While putting the spectrum the cable companies failed to develop to use for the public is a good idea, making the largest carrier stronger is not.  The deal will make it more difficult for consumers to find new options for cellphone carriers as it will make it more difficult for existing companies to get stronger or for new companies to enter the field.  We also note that Verizon has said for months that it didn't need new spectrum, yet here it is asking to buy $3 billion worth from the cable companies.

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