Senate panel to probe Verizon spectrum buy


VerizonMore than a few eyebrows were raised when a group of cable companies banded together and sold a swathe of spectrum to telecom giant Verizon, for a number of reasons. Now the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights is going to do more than raise its eyebrows, it’s going to ask questions in a formal setting.

The hearing is set for Wednesday, March 21, 2012, at 2:00 PM eastern. The somewhat provocative title of the session is “The Verizon/Cable Deals: Harmless Collaboration or a Threat to Competition and Consumers?”

The $3.6B deal involves 122 AWS licenses coming from SpectrumCo LLC, which is comprised of Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. They are to receive $2.3B, $1.1B and $189M, give or take, respectively.

The companies will also maintain a relationship going forward, cross-promoting each others’ products and services.

The deal has been question as a possible example of spectrum squatting or speculation on the part of the cable companies in the first place. In the second place, there are concerns that the business partnerships going forward are anticompetitive.

Here are the scheduled witnesses:
* Randal S. Milch, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Verizon Communications Inc.
* David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President, Comcast Corporation
* Charles F. (Rick) Rule, Managing Partner, Washington, DC Office, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
* Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Rural Cellular Association
* Joel Kelsey, Policy Advisor, Free Press
* Timothy Wu, Isidor & Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia University