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WASHINGTON, DC -- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed a letter on Friday with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to stop the FCC's 180 day clock in its review of the Verizon Wireless/cable transaction. According to CWA, the parties to the transaction -- Verizon Wireless, Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks, and Cox -- have failed to provide requested data in a manner that allows for meaningful review.
The companies are obstructing review of the deal by delaying the delivery of documents, providing documents with large segments redacted, delivering materials in unreadable file formats, hiding data behind various proprietary file formats, and burying relevant information in--literally--hundreds of thousands of documents.
CWA urged the FCC to follow the precedent it used in prior transaction reviews in which it stopped the clock until the agency and outside parties received requested documents in an accessible format and had a chance to review them.
"Verizon Wireless and Big Cable are trying to keep their deal wrapped in secrecy behind closed doors," said Debbie Goldman, Telecommunications Policy Director, CWA. "What we know from already-public information is that this deal is anti-competitive. The FCC should 'stop the clock' on its review and insist on a full public review of this proposed deal."
The FCC, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), are reviewing the proposed transaction. The proposed deal involves not only Verizon Wireless' purchase of wireless spectrum from the nation's largest cable companies - Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and Bright House Networks -- but also joint marketing agreements and a joint technology venture. Under the marketing agreements, the companies would promote, market, and sell each other's product and services. The joint technology venture would develop proprietary new technologies on an exclusive basis.
The marketing agreements and joint technology venture are the heart of the proposed deal, which creates a telecom behemoth consisting of the nation's largest wireless provider and the largest cable companies. Opposition to the proposed deal is growing, with elected officials including Boston Mayor Menino and community groups from affected communities, as well as over 130,000 petition signers telling the FCC they oppose the proposed deal as currently structured.
Verizon Wireless and the cable companies continue to frustrate agency and public review of this major transaction that will transform the competitive telecommunications landscape. Earlier, the companies tried to hide critical elements of the deal by supplying heavily redacted versions of their joint marketing agreements to the agency. The parties "unredacted" some portions of those agreements only after the FCC insisted they do so. Now, the companies have further stalled review of the transaction by delaying delivery of documents, delivering materials in unreadable file formats, hiding data behind various proprietary file formats, and burying relevant information in--literally--hundreds of thousands of documents.
The agreement between Verizon Wireless and the cable companies turns former energetic competitors and rivals into partners, limiting the availability of competitive services and consumer choice. This would lead to higher prices, lower quality of service, reduced investment in high-speed broadband networks, and fewer jobs.
"This proposed deal gives giant telecommunications companies overwhelming market power, increasing corporate profits at the expense of consumers, jobs and local communities. Consumers and workers need competition and jobs, not collusion through a secret deal struck behind closed doors," continued Goldman.
According to the letter, "The public interest requires that the Commission intervene by suspending the 180-day clock to ensure a meaningful opportunity for all third parties to review and evaluate this additional information. This is the only reasonable option for ensuring a fair public interest review of the transactions."
The CWA letter points to several prior transactions in which the FCC has stopped the clock until the parties provided documents and information necessary adequate evaluation and sound analysis of the record, including AT&T/T-Mobile, NBCU/Comcast, Verizon/MCI, and SBC/AT&T.
Union Asks FCC to Slow Review of Verizon, Cable Deal (Bloomberg News, Apr. 20, 2012)
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