Verizon Closing in On $3.9B Purchase of Cable Spectrum

Courtesy of Reuters

Verizon, the global broadband and telecommunications company, has been outspoken over matters concerning net neutrality and spectrum swaps. Being a vocal opponent of net neutrality and any efforts to limit its purchasing power, Verizon has quickly rose to power and has earned a villainous label of sorts.

Mid-July, Verizon placed a $3.9 billion bid to buy 20 MHz of Advanced Wireless Services’ (AWS) wireless spectrum from companies that most of us are familiar with. These companies include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House. If the deal goes through, this would be the largest spectrum transfer the FCC has ever allowed — not including a merger.

According to sources, whom CNet.com is close to, the Federal Communication Communications (FCC) is close to approving this deal by the end of August, but the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is looking into this deal before it’s allowed to go through. The DoJ is acting as oversight, making sure Verizon doesn’t own too much spectrum in any market.

The FCC is also receiving a lot of pressure from competitors like Sprint and other mid-size carriers as they do not want this deal to limit their access to Wi-Fi networks and wired infrastructure that is essential to advanced wireless communication. They want conditions to be attached to any deal going forward.

Sprint lobbyists told FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel:

“Given the agreements, the cable companies have both financial incentives to divert to [Verizon Wireless] customers who use other wireless providers; and incentives to cooperate with [Verizon Wireless] in all respects and avoid actions that would have a negative impact on [Verizon Wireless], so as not to disrupt their relationships under the commercial agreements (via Politico.com).”

For the most part, Verizon has been cooperative with the FCC as it agreed to sell some of its 700MHz spectrum. Verizon also inked a deal with T-Mobile USA, selling some its existing AWS spectrum.

Verizon hasn’t stopped at buying up additional spectrum from cable companies. It has also been petitioning the FCC over the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. This order essentially protects competitors and users from content blocking or discrimination. It also requires for Internet transparency.

Of course Verizon wants more discretion over what happens on the Internet because it feels as though,

“[…] each day millions of individuals use the Internet to promote their own opinions and ideas and to explore those of others, and broadband providers convey those communications.”

Essentially, Verizon is asking, if millions of people can promote their own opinions and ideas, why can’t I?

Verizon finally compares its desire for “editorial discretion” over what goes on over the Internet to a newspaper deciding what content to publish and where.

I think Verizon may have its idea of a newspaper a bit mixed up because newspapers choose what content is published on their papers; They doesn’t own the paper supply and discriminate over who has access to trees.

Verizon controls the fiber optics and the infrastructure, but it didn’t invent the Internet and as consumers, we already pay Verizon for access to their infrastructure. You only have control over the property you created, not the content that was derived from it. If Verizon is essentially able to discriminate content and users, it will have the power to control access to vital information.

Big money already controls much of political system, let’s not let it take over the one thing that gives us a chance to fight for what’s left of our democracy.

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