Union asks FCC to delay decision on $3.6B Verizon spectrum deal

The largest union for telecommunications workers wants the FCC to delay a final decision on whether Verizon can buy $3.6 billion in spectrum from a consortium of cable companies.

The Communications Workers of America wants the FCC to stop the 180-day clock on its review because it says Verizon Wireless, Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks and Cox have not provided meaningful details of their transaction.  

“Verizon Wireless and Big Cable are trying to keep their deal wrapped in secrecy behind closed doors,” said Debbie Goldman, telecommunications policy director for the CWA. “The FCC should ‘stop the clock’ on its review and insist on a full public review of this proposed deal.”

The union says the companies are obstructing a meaningful review of the deal in a number of ways.

In a press release, it argued the companies have provided documents about the deal that include large redacted segments. The companies also have delivered materials in unreadable file formats and hidden data behind proprietary file formats, it said.

The group also accuse the companies of simply burying the necessary information in an avalanche of “hundreds of thousands of documents.”

The deal is important to Verizon because it would provide the company with additional bandwidth at a time when customers are clamoring for more of it. It would also make bandwidth scarcer and more expensive for Verizon’s competitors.

The deal between Verizon and the cable companies would also create joint marketing agreements in which the companies would promote, market and sell each other’s products and services. A joint technology venture created under the deal would develop new proprietary technologies.

CWA says the deal would create “a telecom behemoth” consisting of the nation’s largest wireless provider and the largest cable companies that would transform the competitive telecommunications landscape. It argues the companies are now “energetic competitors and rivals,” but that the deal would turn them into partners that would lead to higher prices for consumers and fewer jobs for workers.

“This proposed deal gives giant telecommunications companies overwhelming market power, increasing corporate profits at the expense of consumers, jobs and local communities,” Goldman said.

A Verizon spokesman told The Hill, "[w]e have cooperated fully in responding to the FCC's requests for information, and are continuing to cooperate to make sure we get them any information they need."