FCC de­nies Dish and part­ners $3 bil­lion in auc­tion dis­counts

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

Dish Net­work Corp. and two part­ners were de­nied $3.3 bil­lion in small­busi­ness dis­counts for air­waves by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion unan­i­mously voted Mon­day that the two small com­pa­nies, SNR Wire­less Li­censeCo LLC and North­star Wire­less LLC, aren't el­i­gi­ble for the pro­gram. The FCC ear­lier said it had con­cluded the com­pa­nies are con­trolled by Dish, which funded them.

The FCC ac­tion could leave Dish in con­trol of the dis­puted air­waves once it pays the full price, Com­mis­sioner Mignon Cly­burn, a Demo­crat, said in an e-mailed state­ment. "This does not ad­vance the public in­ter­est goals of pro­mot­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity and com­pe­ti­tion," Cly­burn said.

Bob To­evs, a Dish spokesman, didn't im­me­di­ately re­spond when reached for com­ment. Dish and the two com­pa­nies were among the win­ners of Jan­uary's record-set­ting $44.9 bil­lion air­waves auc­tion with com­bined bids of $13.3 bil­lion -- a sum that would have dropped to $10 bil­lion with the dis­counts.

"They in fact are not el­i­gi­ble for bid­ding cred­its," FCC Chair­man Tom Wheeler said Mon­day in an e-mailed state­ment. With­out the dis­count, Dish can't com­pete with phone giants AT&T Inc. and Ver­i­zon Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Inc. in spec­trum auc­tions, Dish Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Char­lie Er­gen told in­vestors Aug. 5. If Dish can't com­pete, it's in share­hold­ers' in­ter­est to sell or lease spec­trum, Er­gen said.

Dish said it com­plied with all le­gal re­quire­ments af­ter a July 22 FCC brief­ing out­lin­ing the agency's pre­lim­i­nary de­ci­sion to dis­qual­ify the part­ners.

The FCC on July 16 voted to change pro­gram rules, cap­ping bid­ding cred­its at $150 mil­lion for small busi­nesses. Bid­ding tac­tics like Dish's have been used at least 36 times be­fore by par­tic­i­pants in­clud­ing wire­less lead­ers AT&T and Ver­i­zon, Dish said in a let­ter to a law­maker who ques­tioned the com­pany's par­tic­i­pa­tion.

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