* Say held up by uncommon file formats, costs to obtain documents
* Ask FCC to stop the clock on 180-day review
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, April 24 (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp, DirecTV and others asked U.S. communications regulators on Tuesday to suspend their 180-day clock for reviewing proposed multi-billion dollar airwaves deals between Verizon Wireless and several cable operators.
Along with public interest groups and trade organizations, Sprint and DirecTV argued that they and smaller players, who could be seriously affected by the deals, need more time to study the deal.
They also said the smaller interested parties are having trouble getting access to new material from Verizon and the cable operators that was filed in difficult software formats.
The Federal Communications Commission is on the 96th day of its review of Verizon Wireless’s plan to buy about $3.9 billion worth of wireless airwaves from cable companies including Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc.
The cable operators would be allowed to resell Verizon’s mobile service as part of the deals. Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc .
The FCC declined to comment on the delay request.
“Verizon is cooperating fully with the FCC in responding to its requests, and we are continuing to cooperate in getting it information it needs,” a Verizon spokesman said.
Verizon rivals Sprint, Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS Communications, have all complained to the FCC about the bigger company’s cable deal on concerns that it would give too much market power to the already dominant company.
Other opponents have argued the deals would create allies out of former rivals, to the detriment of consumers.
The letter sent to the FCC on Tuesday said that some public interest groups and smaller companies do not have the expensive software to run the file formats specified by the FCC for responses to document requests.
Further, costs imposed to obtain paper copies and electronic media of the documents hit $2,124.39 to date - a price tag that could make it difficult for consumer groups and small companies to fully analyze the spectrum deals and marketing agreements.
“They must initially rely on discussions with others who have been able to study the documents, which adds additional time to the process,” the letter said.
The letter was signed by Sprint, DirecTV, FairPoint Communications Inc, Rural Telecommunications Group, Rural Cellular Association, as well as public interest groups Free Press, Media Access Project, New America Foundation and Public Knowledge.
The letter was similar to an FCC filing last week by the Communications Workers of America that accused Verizon and the cable operators of obstructing a meaningful review of the deals.
The largest union for telecommunications workers cited large redacted segments in documents and unreadable file formats in its plea to the FCC to stop the review clock.