NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless and its cable partners are willing to give U.S. communication regulators confidential details of their agreement but objected to a request for information from Sprint Nextel (S.N), DirecTV DTV.O, T-Mobile USA and others.
Verizon Wireless has announced it would spend almost $4 billion to buy wireless spectrum from the cable companies as part of broader agreements that include formation of a joint venture and cable operator resale of wireless services.
Spectrum sales need approval from the Federal Communications Commission because it regulates the transfer of a spectrum license.
Since the Verizon Wireless agreement with cable operators, including Comcast (CMCSA.O) and Time Warner Cable TWC.N, is much broader than a spectrum sale, its rivals and consumer advocacy groups asked for details of the other elements of the deal.
“Without the ability to review the larger transaction in its entirety, it is impossible to assess whether there will be public interest harms associated with this proposed transfer,” they wrote in a Wednesday letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
They asked Genachowski for help in “acquiring the information necessary to adequately evaluate the proposed transactions and relationships” so they could give the FCC its comments on the deal.
However, in a meeting last week with the FCC, Verizon Wireless and its partners argued that commercial agreements do not need FCC approval and “have no bearing on whether the spectrum sale is in the public interest” so they do not need to be part of the FCC review.
Privately held cable provider Cox Enterprises outlined the details of the meeting in a filing dated Wednesday with the FCC.
The partners also told the FCC that the spectrum license agreement and the commercial agreements “are not contingent upon each other” so either could go ahead even if the other were not approved, according to the filing.
They said they would provide the FCC with details about the commercial agreement on a confidential basis to help with the review process even though they did not believe it was obliged to do so.
Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L), also said that the commercial arrangements are a separate transaction unrelated to the spectrum purchase that is being reviewed by the FCC.
The Justice Department is looking into the antitrust implications of the deal, focusing on the marketing arrangements.
Reporting By Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn