OVERNIGHT TECH: Verizon-cable deal gains steam

The Verizon-cable deal includes both a sale of spectrum from the cable companies to Verizon and separate marketing arrangements that will allow the companies to cross-sell one another's services.

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Although consumer advocacy group are lobbying against the deal, it has not encountered the same level of opposition as AT&T's failed merger with T-Mobile last year. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary's Antitrust subcommittee, expressed concerns about the Verizon-cable deal in a letter last month, but unlike the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, Kohl did not urge regulators to block it.

Public Knowledge, an advocacy group opposed to the Verizon-cable deal, accused Verizon of buying off T-Mobile.

"That Verizon Wireless feels the need to buy off T-Mobile to close its spectrum/marketing deals with the country's largest cable operators underscores just how bad this deal really is for American consumers and competition generally," said Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge.

He argued that the real competitive concern of the Verizon-cable deal is not the spectrum sale, but the marketing arrangements. He said Monday's announcement does nothing to address the "cozy, cartel-like arrangements" of the Verizon-cable deal.

"Whether or not a handful of private carriers pronounce themselves satisfied, the [Federal Communications Commission] and the Department of Justice must both ensure that all aspects of this deal — both the spectrum transfer and the resale agreements — do not undermine competition in either the mobile or wireline broadband and video markets," Feld said.

Joel Kelsey, policy adviser of advocacy group Free Press, said he will reserve judgement on Verizon's deal with T-Mobile until more details are available, but he claimed "Verizon is badly overstating its need for the cable companies’ spectrum."

Verizon and T-Mobile said the spectrum swap will allow them to upgrade their networks, improving service for their customers.

AT&T, Windstream win 'special access' petitions: Pricing petitions by AT&T and Windstream were approved by default on Monday because the Federal Communications Commission declined to act on them within a set time frame.

The FCC plans to overhaul its "special access" rules, which govern how much carriers and other businesses pay for high-speed circuits to carry their traffic. But the commission allowed the AT&T and Windstream petitions to move ahead under the existing rules. 

"Based on productive discussions among the Commissioners over the past three weeks, the petitions from AT&T and Windstream, which were filed under existing rules, will be allowed to be granted according to those rules," a senior FCC official said in a statement. "But those rules are not working as intended, and pursuant to ongoing discussions we expect the Commission will soon vote on an order setting out a path to reform them. As part of this path forward, we expect the Commission will also soon issue a mandatory, comprehensive data request, to collect the necessary data from incumbent and competitive providers.”

Data breach amendment to cyber bill?: An aide to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told The Hill on Monday that Toomey is considering whether to offer his data breach bill as an amendment to cybersecurity legislation.

Toomey's bill, which he introduced last week, would set a single national standard requiring firms to notify their customers in the event of a data breach. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) have introduced similar bills.

The cybersecurity bill offered by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote next month. The measure would encourage companies to share information about cyber threats and would set security standards for critical infrastructure systems. Lieberman has said he is open to adding data breach protections to his bill.


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