Dish cites ‘trust’ complications with FCC

Dish’s “trust” concerns with government regulators will complicate its decision to participate in a major airwave auction scheduled for next year, the company’s chief executive said Wednesday. 

Dish Chief Executive Charlie Ergen pointed the finger at a Federal Communications Commission order circulated last month to deny Dish $3.3 billion in discounts that it claimed by bidding through two smaller companies in a previous airwave auction that ended earlier this year. 

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Ergen, during an earnings call, also blamed the discount flap on dimming the company’s prospects of breaking into the wireless market and for making it harder to strike a reported deal with T-Mobile. 

Dish will have to review the rules of the upcoming incentive auction before deciding whether to participate. But Ergen said his board is going to be asking a lot more questions this time around — referencing “$3.3 billion of complications” and “trust factor complications.”

He clarified that does not mean the company would not participate but said he was “being realistic about it.”

The company has argued it complied with all the legal requirements during the AWS-3 auction earlier this year. 

But its claim of the designated entity discounts — meant to help smaller companies compete — had been blasted by lawmakers and some at the commission. 

The order circulated by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler determined the discounts don't apply, because Dish has a controlling interest in the two smaller companies. The companies would have to pay full price if they want to keep the spectrum.

Dish spent the second-highest amount of money bidding for spectrum, despite not yet having a wireless network. AT&T spent more than $18 billion in bids, while Verizon spent more than $10 billion.