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Union, NAACP say Dish Network ‘gamed’ rules

The NAACP and a major communications industry union are accusing Dish Network of abusing federal rules to receive more than $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

The civil rights group and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on Thursday sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) saying Dish “created partnerships and loopholes” to claim millions in bidding credits.

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“We cannot afford another gamed auction, where the winning bidders use taxpayer subsidies and unfair advantages to drive out companies with a proven track record of infrastructure investment that benefits U.S. consumers,” the two wrote.

The new letter makes the NAACP and CWA the latest critics of Dish’s behavior in a recent federal auction for licenses to the nation’s airwaves, which brought in nearly $45 billion to the federal government.

Critics on all sides have pounced on Dish, which spent $13 billion but largely relied on two smaller subsidiaries created just months before the auction kicked off to buy up rights to the spectrum. Those smaller companies qualified for a 25 percent discount meant to help out little firms, in what many critics have said is a gaming of the system.

The FCC has said that every bid will be properly examined before the discounts are applied.

Going forward, the CWA and NAACP said that the dustup should prompt a more formal review of the rules for smaller companies, especially ahead of a larger airwave auction scheduled for next year.