Verizon’s competitors seek conditions on cable deal

A host of Verizon’s cellular competitors want to make sure the company does not get any preferential access to Wi-Fi networks through its $3.6 billion deal with a coalition of cable companies.

In filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week, Sprint, MetroPCS and a coalition of mid-sized carriers argued that if regulators approve the deal, they should attach conditions to ensure that all carriers have equal access to the cable companies’ Wi-Fi hot spots.

Verizon agreed in December to buy blocks of radio spectrum from a group of cable companies, including Comcast, Time Warner and Cox. The companies also agreed to cross-sell each other’s services and to launch a joint-research venture.

Many of the same cable companies have been setting up high-speed Wi-Fi Internet hot spots around the country, and in May, they announced that they would allow each other’s customers to access all of the hot spots.

But Verizon’s competitors are worried that the company’s arrangements with the cable companies will give its customers special access to the Wi-Fi hot spots.

“In the absence of the Commercial Agreements, the Cable Companies would not have the incentive to degrade the service for other wireless carriers for the benefit of Verizon,” Sprint wrote in its filing. But the company said that if the deal is approved, the cable companies would have an incentive to “cooperate with [Verizon] in all respects and avoid any actions that would have a negative impact on [Verizon], so as not to disrupt their relationships under the Commercial Agreements.”

Sprint urged regulators to bar the cable companies from imposing any restrictions on Wi-Fi access that do not apply to all companies equally.

Consumer advocacy groups also filed comments with the FCC this week calling for conditions on the Verizon-cable deal.

The groups are not satisfied with Verizon’s recent announcement that it will sell off some of its newly acquired spectrum to T-Mobile, the smallest national carrier.

Free Press said Verizon, the largest carrier, should be forced to relinquish more spectrum holdings in certain markets.

Verizon argues that the additional spectrum will help it improve the quality of its network and that the commercial deals will expand consumer choice.

Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman, expressed confidence that the deal will soon get the green light from regulators.

“We believe we’ve made a strong case that this deal is in the public interest,” he said. “We fully expect the approval process to close on time later this summer.”