Democrats worry Verizon-cable deal could undermine Telecom Act

{mosads}Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Barney Frank, John Olver, John Tierney, Stephen Lynch and Niki Tsongas also signed the letter.

Verizon agreed to pay $3.6 billion to acquire a block of radio spectrum from cable companies including Comcast and Time Warner. The companies also agreed to cross-sell each other’s services.

The lawmakers worried that part of the reason Verizon bought the spectrum was to close off its competitors’ access to it. Spectrum is a limited resource that all wireless devices use to transmit signals.

The Democrats urged the regulators to scrutinize the deal while “taking into consideration the pro-consumer, pro-competition provisions enshrined in the ’96 Act.” 

In a separate letter on Wednesday, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) asked Attorney General Eric Holder to carefully consider whether the marketing arrangements will stifle competition. He worried that the deal will discourage Verizon from expanding its high-speed cable service FiOS to areas of Massachusetts that do not already have it.

Verizon says it had no plans to expand FiOS beyond its current size even without the cable deal. The company also argues that the spectrum deal will allow it to increase the capacity of its wireless network.

“We understand that policymakers have questions about this transaction, and as this review process continues on schedule, we have sought to address them in the appropriate forums,” a Verizon spokesman said. “Verizon Wireless have made a strong case that our purchase of unused spectrum and putting it to use for consumers in what is a highly competitive wireless marketplace is in the public interest.” 

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