Verizon Wireless and the four cable
operators it is buying spectrum from have presented the FCC with a nuanced
explanation of a marketing and cross-selling arrangement that was penned at the
same time the companies agreed on a $3.9 billion sale of AWS spectrum.
The marketing deal between Verizon and
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications has
come under scrutiny for its apparent connection to the airwaves transaction and
its possible competitive impact on the cable market.
The FCC asked the companies earlier this
month to disclose more information on the side deals after their competitors
argued the spectrum sale “appears to be only one small part of what could
be a significant realignment of the competitive landscape.”
Verizon Wireless has said that the
spectrum purchase and the other agreements are separate, a stance it maintained
in documents posted Friday afternoon to the FCC’s online docket.
“The consummation of the
transaction contemplated by the license purchase agreements (i.e., sale of the
spectrum to Verizon Wireless) is not contingent on the other agreements, and similarly the transactions contemplated
by the other agreements (i.e, the parties acting as agents for sale of
services, the operation of the technology joint venture, the MSO parties acting
as resellers of Verizon Wireless services, if they so elect) are not contingent
on the license purchase agreements,” Verizon said.
Comcast painted a somewhat different
picture than Verizon. It holds the most spectrum of the group, which goes under
the name SpectrumCo, and says it has managed SpectrumCo’s day-to-day operations
since it was formed in 2006.
It said the AWS spectrum sale wouldn’t
have happened without the side deals, which provide the cable operators with a
long-sought means of entering the wireless market.
“Neither Comcast nor SpectrumCo
would have entered into the spectrum license purchase agreement had Comcast
(and the other SpectrumCo owners) and Verizon Wireless not come to terms on the
commercial agreements,” it told the FCC, adding that it would not have
given up its spectrum “without having in hand alternative ways of
achieving its wireless goals.”
However, Comcast echoed Verizon’s
statement that the license agreement and the marketing agreements are not
contingent on each other. “As a legal matter the spectrum license purchase
agreement and the commercial agreements are separate from and not contingent on
each other,” Comcast said.
Verizon and the cable operators agreed
late last year to cross-sell each other’s services and have formed a joint venture,
and the cable operators were given the option to resell Verizon’s wireless
service under their own brand, similar to their former MVNO deals with Sprint.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee questioned at a hearing last week whether the companies’ contract
amounted to a “de-facto non-compete agreement,” but has so far not come
out against the transaction.