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House Democrats Blast Verizon-SpectrumCo Deal

WASHINGTON: A group of House Democrats are casting a wary eye on the proposed deal between Verizon Wireless and SpectrumCo, the consortium of big cable operators. They’re urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to “protect the public interest” in their review of the proposed deal. SpectrumCo—a joint venture of Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House—agreed last December to sell advanced wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless for $3.6 billion. All parties agreed to co-marketing deals, where Verizon would push the partners’ cable service, and they would pitch Verizon cellphone plans.

Verizon concurrently stopped rolling out its FiOS fiber-based broadband and TV service, and has since announced that it will no longer sell stand-alone DSL broadband.

“The joint marketing agreements appear to limit the availability of competitive services in video, broadband, voice and wireless markets,” 32 House Democrats said in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Until now, Verizon Communications has systematically deployed its all-fiber FiOS network, competing directly with cable’s broadband and video services,” they continued. “But it appears that the commercial agreement would eliminate or reduce cross-platform competition and diminish incentives to expand FiOS deployment.”

The group of 32, which included Charles Rangel, Louise Slaughter, Jerrold Nadler and Brian Higgins of New York, John Sarbanes of Maryland and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio among others—said the Verizon-SpectrumCo deal “raises serious concerns for competition and consumers.... we strongly urge you to protect the public interest in cross-platform competition driving lower prices and higher quality services, and to ensure that all Americans have access to the most advanced technologies and services.”