Verizon confident of cable deal approval, even as opposition hardens

It's either a show of false bravado or Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) knows something that the rest of us don't.

The mobile carrier said it's confident regulators will this summer approve its plans to co-market services with a leading group of cable operators, as a separate part of a deal to buy $3.9 billion worth of wireless spectrum from the cablecos.

"We are working productively with the FCC and DoJ to address their concerns and we are confident that we remain on track to receive the necessary approvals this summer," Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden told Vision2Mobile in an e-mail.

The confidence comes in the wake of new--or perhaps just ongoing but more public--opposition to the deal which, if approved, would allow Verizon Wireless to market cable services from Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Bright House Networks (all part of a SpectrumCo consortium also selling wireless spectrum to the carrier) and Cox Communications, which is selling its own spectrum to Verizon as well.

In return, the cable companies would market Verizon Wireless to their customers. And finally, the two disparate groups would work together on marketing and technology projects.

The deal has raised the hackles of those who say it will put a nail into Verizon FiOS and effectively seal off a competitive threat to the cable industry.

"We should be careful about approving deals like this which turns competitors into collaborators," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during a conference call with reporters. "This should raise serious red flags. We want firms to compete, not capitulate or collaborate."

McFadden, in comments to Network World, said that the deal between the cablecos and Verizon Wireless should not be confused with a deal between cablecos and Verizon Communications. It would therefore, he told the magazine, not impact FiOS which "has been taking market share from the cable companies consistently for years now" and "will go head-to-head with cable anytime, anywhere."

On another front, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) took its opposition to the public via a series of TV ads in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond and Washington, D.C. The ad was scheduled to run Sunday during CBS's Face the Nation program.

The union is in rancorous contract negotiations with Verizon, but the ad takes aim on the deal with the cablecos, not the company's negotiating stance, noting: "Verizon and the big cable companies have cooked up a monopoly deal that would raise prices and kill jobs. The Federal Communications Commission should act in the public interest, not corporate special interests," and urges viewers to "call the FCC today."

The FCC is getting close to the end of its timeline for making a decision on the deal, but that deadline could be extended. The DoJ's process is "ongoing," a department spokesperson told Vision2Mobile Friday.

McFadden, meanwhile, used his e-mail response to Vision2Mobile to defend the FiOS rollout even as it settles into a build out mode for franchise areas that have been started rather than moving into new areas.

For more:
 - read the Vision2Mobile story
 - and this Network World story
 - see the CWA release

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