Sprint, DirecTV and seven other groups
are asking the FCC to stall its review of Verizon’s $3.9 billion AWS purchase
because of problems accessing documents about the transaction.
Stopping the FCC’s self-imposed shot clock
on the transaction could be a setback for Verizon, which has said it expects
the purchase of nationwide AWS licenses to close this summer.
The companies claim that they have encountered
“delays and technical difficulties, including files that cannot be opened
with software commonly used by law firms” when attempting to access
documents provided by Verizon and its four cable partners.
Reviewing the documents is vital to
properly assess the spectrum sale, but some can only be accessed with
“expensive” software, they said.
“Organizations and firms that do
not have this expensive software… have been seriously challenged in their
attempts to search through the daunting volumes of files and review relevant
documents,” the groups said in a letter sent yesterday to the FCC.
The document was signed by Sprint,
DirecTV, FairPoint Communications, Free Press, Media Access Project, Open
Technology Initiative, Public Knowledge, the Rural Cellular Association and the
Rural Telecommunications Group.
“Considering the delays in
receiving data and the technical challenges involved, the commission should
take the further step of giving reviewers the additional time that is necessary
to study the documents and data and respond to the commission with cogent
analysis,” they said.
The letter followed a similar request
from the Communications Workers of America last week. The union expressed
“concern about not having a timely and meaningful opportunity thus far to
review documents” and asked the FCC for more time.
A Verizon spokesman said the operator
had complied with the FCC’s document requests.
“Verizon is cooperating fully with
the FCC in responding to its requests and in getting it the information it
needs,” he said.
The FCC has not said whether it will
extend its review process, but there is recent precedent for delaying
proceedings. The agency pushed out the deadline on its review of AT&T’s
merger with T-Mobile USA to analyze additional information about the buyout.
Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said during the
company’s earnings call last week that it expects to receive FCC approval for
its AWS purchase by mid-summer.
Despite its apparent confidence that the
transaction will go through, Verizon recently attempted to sweeten the deal by
offering to sell off its lower 700 MHz A block and B block assets if the FCC
agreed to let it buy the AWS spectrum.
T-Mobile USA, an opponent to the AWS
deal, did not appear impressed about the offer during a recent meeting with the
“This proposed sale does not
mitigate the substantial public interest harms created by Verizon’s pending
transaction with the cable companies,” T-Mobile said in an ex parte filing
last week which documented the meeting.
T-Mobile, MetroPCS and other groups
opposed to Verizon’s spectrum grab claim the deal will consolidate too much
spectrum in the hands of a single operator. Verizon says it needs the
additional bands to add capacity to its LTE network.