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FCC chief urges passage of spectrum deal

New outline more pro-consumer and will encourage competition

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski has urged the agency to approve Verizon’s $3.6 billion spectrum purchase from cable operators after the telco agreed to binding concessions to get the deal passed, including off-loading a big chunk of the spectrum to rival T-Mobile and agreeing to push on with FiOS, which has emerged as a major competitor to cable. The new outline will be more pro-consumer and encourage, not quash, competition, the FCC said.

On Thursday the Justice Dept. ordered changes after a coordinated investigation with the FCC.

The original pact “posed series concerns, including in the wired and wireless broadband and video marketplaces,” Genachowski said in a statement. But after the parties made some “binding pro-competitive commitments” and agreed to tweak the deal, “I believe the commission should now approve this transaction, and I will be circulating a draft order to my colleagues that would do so,” he said.

Besides selling spectrum to rival T-Mobile, Verizon also committed to accelerate the build-out of its new spectrum and enhance its roaming obligations. And commercial agreements between Verizon and its new cable partners, Comcast and Time Warner, will be modified to preserve Verizon’s incentives to build out FiOS, which has grown into a viable video competitor to cable.

Advancing U.S. leadership in 4G LTE deployment means “the transaction marks another step in our effort to promote the U.S. innovation economy and make state-of-the-art broadband available to more people in more places,” the FCC said. It will put 20 megahertz of unused prime spectrum “quickly to work across the country, benefiting consumers and the marketplace.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues toward a final commission vote in the near future,” Genachowski said.

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