Reaction from critics of the Verizon/SpectrumCo deal were
quick to register their disapproval Thursday after the FCC released the order
approving Verizon Wireless' $3.9 billion purchase of spectrum from some major
The Communications Workers of America, which had worked hard
to block the spectrum sale, said it was a case of government serving the
interests of business rather than consumers. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski
has repeatedly said he sees the FCC as a consumer-focused agency, and Thursday
indicated he thought the deal, with its modifications from Justice and the FCC,
was consumer friendly.
CWA did not, using the terms "kill" (jobs) and
"harm" (consumers) to describe the deal. "The FCC's decision allowing
Big Cable to virtually monopolize wireline and video connections to millions of
homes will lead to job loss and hit consumers with higher prices," said
the group. "It will slam the door on our country's high speed future
because it has destroyed any incentive for Verizon to continue the build out of
its high speed FiOS network."
CWA said the FCC and Justice appeared content with an
anticompetitive deal that cost jobs and raised prices. Among the conditions
were time, and other limits on cross marketing agreements between Verizon
Wireless and cable operators, but CWA said they were weak and added it was
unclear how they would be enforced.
Free Press was somewhat gentler in its criticism. It gave
the FCC and DOJ some credit for addressing some of the worst concerns raised by
the group, and was even pleased by some of the order, though it concluded that
"consumers would be far better off if this union had never been
"The best part of today's order is that, after years of
turning a blind eye to problems of spectrum hoarding, the FCC has finally
recognized the problems that consolidation produces in the market for mobile
services," said policy adviser Joel Kelsey in a statement. "If we
want the kind of vigorous competition that helps consumers find lower priced
services, the FCC must pursue a strategy to allow more efficient, fair and open
use of the public airwaves."
Free Press praised the spinoff of some of that advanced
wireless spectrum to T-Mobile, which was a condition of the deal, and said he
was "pleased" by the "strong data roaming requirements imposed on
Verizon. These conditions will help by giving other wireless providers access
to the spectrum they need to compete on price with the twin bells, Verizon and
Verizon Wireless must abide by the FCC's data roaming order
even if the company's court challenge success, much as Comcast has to abide by
the FCC's net neutrality rules as a condition of its NBCU purchase, even if
those rules also fall in court. Coincidently, it is Verizon, not Comcast, that
is also challenging those rules in court.
The Alliance for Broadband Competition was another group
that took a half a loaf from the table.
"Our alliance of competitive carriers, trade associations,
public interest groups, and other entities continue to have deep concerns about
the future of the competitive communications landscape," it said.
"While the FCC's Order does not go far enough to ensure a competitive
landscape, we are pleased that the Order addresses some of the concerns that we
have raised with the Commission over the past several months."