Norquist, conservative groups petition FCC in favor of latest Verizon deal

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Conservative organizations sprung to the defense of Verizon Wireless’ latest deal to acquire unused spectrum from several leading cable providers pending before the Federal Communications Commission Friday.

Among the players involved was Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Verizon Wireless is looking to pay Cox Cable and SpectrumCo., a cable consortium including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications $3.6 billion dollars for licenses to their unused Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum — a highly prized frequency range ideal for mobile communications.

Norquist, along with thirteen other various conservative think tanks and media policy organizations, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski urging him and the FCC to approve the multibillion-dollar business deal first announced in December. The organizations petitioned the chairman to allow a free-market solution, as opposed to intervention by the federal government.

“Demand for wireless broadband is more than doubling annually, but vast swaths of valuable spectrum — the lifeblood of mobile communications — remain unavailable to wireless carriers,” said the organizations.

The conservative organizations who signed on to the letter were Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, Digital Liberty, Institute for Policy Innovation, Center for Individual Freedom, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Less Government,, National Taxpayers Union, Net Competition, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, American Consumer Institute and Citizen Outreach.

Similarly, progressive media advocacy organizations organized for Verizon’s competitors Sprint, T-Mobile USA and regional carriers in May, petitioning the FCC to block the deal.

T-Mobile USA, in a May statement, argued the deal would have the opposite impact Verizon’s advocates say it would.

“The end result will be to foreclose competition and harm consumers,” said T-Mobile USA.

The global trend toward mobile adoption has Internet providers and policy makers concerned that there is not enough spectrum available to accommodate future demand.

A so-called “spectrum crunch” is projected to adversely affect a majority of U.S. mobile wireless carriers and their subscribers by 2015. Spectrum itself is a limited natural resource; each broadcast, cable, telecom and Internet provider is licensed to occupy certain frequencies of spectrum, as regulated by both the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“The spectrum at issue is ideally situated in the 1700/2100 MHz AWS bands, covering over 80 percent of the U.S. population (259 million POPs),” the conservative advocates said.

“Consumers will see substantial net benefits from expanded coverage enabled by additional spectrum, especially compared to more costly and time-consuming undertakings such as cell splitting,” they said.

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