This is a setback for the erstwhile rivals. The FCC told them today that they have until March 26 to fill regulators in on the cross-marketing deals that Verizon struck with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable operators in December as part of a $3.6B agreement that also provides the wireless phone giant with airwave spectrum that the pay TV providers control. The companies said that the marketing deals fall outside the purview of the FCC, which must consider whether transferring the spectrum would benefit the public. The companies added that they’ve given info about the business deals to the Justice Department, which will decide whether the arrangement is anti-competitive. But the FCC says that the commercial agreements are “inseparable from the proposed license transfer.”
Public interest advocates applauded the decision. ”We are confident that a full record will conclusively demonstrate that Verizon and the cable cartel’s plans to divide and conquer the communications markets are nothing but bad news for competition and innovation,” says S. Derek Turner of activist group Free Press. But Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn fears that the FCC will keep much of the info private. ”The Commission should make certain that a transaction like this, which could reshape the national broadband market, receives the closest scrutiny possible from the public,” she says.
Comcast says that it presented “compelling evidence” that the deals with Verizon “provide substantial consumer benefits without any reduction in competition. We will continue to cooperate with the Commission’s review of these matters and look forward to a timely resolution.”