TR Daily CWA, RWA Oppose Modifications to Dish’s Licenses
Friday, December 6, 2019

CWA, RWA Oppose Modifications to Dish’s Licenses

The Communications Workers of America and the Rural Wireless Association say they are opposed to modification of Dish Network Corp.’s FCC licenses that in most cases would give the carrier additional time to build out a 5G network.

Dish is seeking the modifications related to its agreement to acquire divested assets as part of the Department of Justice’s proposed settlement approving T-Mobile US, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Sprint Corp. (TR Daily, July 26).

In particular, Dish wants the FCC to extend AWS-4, lower 700 megahertz band E-block, and AWS H-block license build-out requirements from 2020 and 2022, respectively, to 2023. The FCC solicited comment on the license modifications in an order of proposed modification that was part of an item approving the T-Mobile-Sprint transaction (TR Daily, Nov. 5).

“In this letter, we make three main points. First, DISH’s request for extensions of construction deadlines … is flatly inconsistent with Commission precedent denying such extensions in all but extraordinary cases,” CWA said in a filing yesterday in WT docket 18-197. “Second, DISH has already benefited from numerous extensions and has offered no explanation for why it cannot meet its current deadlines. Finally, DISH’s long history of abusing its spectrum resources should not be ignored by the Commission.”

“If the requested extensions were granted, DISH has left itself many outs should it fail (once again) to meet its buildout requirements,” added CWA, which opposes the merger. “These include regulatory or legal changes, ‘unanticipated’ supply chain problems, and unspecified other factors ‘beyond the company’s control.’ In such cases, DISH has requested ex post facto reduction of the metrics it has agreed to meet, further extensions of time, and/or reductions in the contributions it would otherwise be required to make. DISH is subject to financial penalties in the form of monetary contributions if it fails to meet the proposed new buildout requirements. However, financial analysts have observed that such contributions may be too small and accordingly do little to assure compliance.”

RWA, which also is against the merger, also opposes the Dish license modification request.

“Nearly six years after Dish acquired this vast hoard of spectrum, the entirety of those three bands and/or license blocks remain fallow and a commercial wasteland. Yet somehow, Dish believes it should be rewarded for these market failures by promising to deliver by 2023 wireless services capable of delivering 35 Mbps that are already available today and offered by no less than four facilities-based, nationwide wireless carriers,” RWA complained. “There is no public interest benefit in having Sprint disappear entirely from the competitive landscape—only to be replaced by Dish committing to deliver services in the name of the public interest that are already present today. For these reasons, RWA protests the Order or Proposed Modification and urges the Commission to remove the stay currently in place and compel Dish to deploy services under the current construction deadlines, or return the licenses to the FCC so that rural carriers can actually utilize them and deploy real-life wireless services.”

But the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which counts Dish, T-Mobile, and Sprint as members, said that it “supports the Commission’s conclusion that the DISH Commitments are in the public interest, and encourages the Bureau to adopt them in accordance with the procedures in Section 316 of the Communications Act.”

Meanwhile, Union Telephone Company (d/b/a Union Wireless) and Cellular Network Partnership (d/b/a Pioneer) filed a petition for reconsideration of the merger order asking the FCC to reconsider the use of “the 2010 U.S. Census definition of ‘rural area’ for purposes of the commitment of T-Mobile and Sprint to build out their 5G broadband network to rural communities. The Commission’s reliance on the expansive definition of rural areas in the 2010 U.S. Census would have the inadvertent effect of eroding the prospect that rural 5G network conditions and in-home broadband conditions imposed on the Applicants by the Order will be successful in promoting closure of the digital divide, an important goal pursued by the Order.”

“With respect to roaming, the Petitioners request the Commission to reconsider its finding that no special roaming-related conditions are necessary, and urge the Commission to adopt such conditions as a means of ensuring that small rural carriers are able to enter into commercially reasonable roaming agreements with New T-Mobile,” the petition added. “The Order overlooks considerable evidence in the record showing that small rural carriers will be adversely affected by the proposed transaction because New T-Mobile will have strong incentives to refrain from entering into commercially reasonable roaming agreements with these carriers. These incentives are engendered in part by the fact that Sprint’s current interest in being a cooperative roaming partner (principally due to its lack of sufficient low-band spectrum) will evaporate when the proposed transaction is consummated, because T-Mobile has extensive low-band spectrum licenses.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews MergersAntitrust SpectrumAllocation

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