Verizon Wireless’s proposal to buy unused airwaves from cable providers led by Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US) has enough votes to win regulatory clearance from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, officials said.
The five-member agency’s two Republican commissioners have cast electronic votes to approve the $3.6 billion deal, joining Democratic Chairman Julius Genachowski, said two agency officials who declined to be identified because the tally hasn’t been made public. The agency’s remaining two Democratic members haven’t yet cast their votes and don’t face an immediate deadline to do so, the people said.
The deal on Aug. 16 won antitrust approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which limited cooperation between Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless provider, and the cable companies selling airwaves, a group that includes No. 1 carrier Comcast and the second-largest, Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC:US)
Spokesmen Mark Wigfield of the FCC, Ed McFadden of Verizon and Sena Fitzmaurice of Comcast declined to comment.
The airwaves sale and cooperation pact that the companies proposed in December, if left unaltered, would have brought higher prices and lower quality for consumers, the Justice Department said.
Verizon in June agreed to sell airwaves to T-Mobile USA Inc., the smallest of the four nationwide wireless providers.
Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, wants to add airwaves as customers increasingly adopt smartphones such as Apple Inc. (AAPL:US)’s iPhone to watch video and browse the Web.
The Justice Department’s conditions won’t do enough to ensure competition in a market characterized by locally exclusive cable companies and a wireless sector dominated by four players, critics said.
Final approval would give Verizon success where No. 2 mobile carrier AT&T Inc. (T:US) failed last year, when regulators barred it from buying T-Mobile because the transaction would have eliminated the smaller carrier and reduced competition.
Verizon’s proposed sale of spectrum to T-Mobile, contingent on winning approval of the cable-airwaves deal, turned the unit of Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE) from an opponent of the transactions into a supporter.
Closely held Bright House Networks contributed some of the airwaves being sold to Verizon by the cable group including Philadelphia-based Comcast and New York-based Time Warner known as SpectrumCo. Separately, Cox Communications agreed to sell airwaves to Verizon for $315 million.
Comcast owns 64 percent of SpectrumCo and is to receive about $2.3 billion from the sale, the companies said in a statement in December. Time Warner Cable owns 31 percent of SpectrumCo and will receive about $1.1 billion. Bright House owns 5 percent of SpectrumCo and will receive about $189 million, the companies said.
Verizon Wireless is 55 percent owned by New York-based Verizon and 45 percent-owned by Vodafone Group Plc (VOD), based in Newbury, England.
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