Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


March 6, 2012

Verizon Communications Inc. said its $3.9 billion deal to buy a block of wireless airwaves, or spectrum, from a group of cable companies would benefit the public by bringing more mobile service to a broader swath of Americans as data-hungry iPhones and tablet computers force capacity constraints.

The telecommunications company faces opposition from rival T-Mobile USA, which said last month in a Federal Communications Commission filing that the sale would damage competition and allow Verizon to "accumulate even more spectrum on top of an already dominant position." Verizon announced the deal as regulatory opposition mounted against AT&T Inc.'s planned $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile, leading to the merger's collapse late last year. Analysts anticipate less resistance to the Verizon deal because the spectrum has been largely unused and wouldn't involve the transfer of customers.

The Verizon spectrum deal is at the center of a debate about how the scarce commodity should be apportioned among the largest carriers as the FCC nears authorization to auction off television airwaves. Carriers have argued vigorously for access to new spectrum as more consumers dial up high-definition video and download music and photos to their devices.

In an FCC filing released Monday, Verizon said the deal with Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Bright House Networks LLC and Cox Communications Inc. would help relieve the nation's congested networks. Verizon "faces spectrum constraints in its network in some areas as early as 2013 and in many more by 2015," according to the filing. A Verizon spokesman declined to comment beyond the filing, and an FCC representative also declined to comment.

As part of its defense, the carrier argued that the FCC should maintain current standards for weighing spectrum concentration in a given market, known as a screen, and also opposed a proposal to put caps on the amount of spectrum a company can hold. Pay-as-you-go carrier MetroPCS Communications Inc. has also fought to have the Verizon spectrum deals blocked, highlighting in its own filing last month what it said were procedural problems with Verizon's application.

Sprint Nextel Corp., which aggressively opposed AT&T's T-Mobile purchase, cautioned in a filing that Verizon's purchase could put too many airwaves in the hands of too few companies. Verizon also said it would oppose any FCC review of a separate marketing agreement in which its Verizon Wireless subsidiary and the cable companies cross-promote their products in stores. The carrier noted the Justice Department is reviewing the marketing accord and that the FCC hasn't historically weighed in on such arrangements. Wall Street Journal

Legislation that would require Pennsylvania voters to show photo identification evey time they cast a ballot is poised for a vote by the state Senate on Wednesday. This evening, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15-11 to send an amended version of a previously approved House bill to the majority-Republican chamber for action.

Lawmakers approved language that would allow a county or municipal employee to show their workers' identification at the polls instead of a driver's license or some other form of photo identification such as one issued by the federal government, a student ID card from a PA private or public college or university or a "care facility." Critics have pounced on the bill, charging that it's an attempt to suppress the vote in urban areas, where voters tend not to carry photo identification cards. Backers say the bill would require the state Department of Transportation to issue a free card to a person who signs an affidavit attesting that that they do not have photo identification and need it to vote."

Backers further say no one will be turned away because those seeking to cast their ballots will be allowed to cast provision ballots as long as they come back within six days to prove their eligibility. Democrats say that could be too high a bar for seniors and others and would result in provisional ballots being discarded. The Appropriations Committee's vote came after more than an hour of sometimes acrimonious debate that saw Democratic amendments batted away on party-line votes. "This is a very simple, commonsense bill to promote the integrity of the of the process," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.

Acknowledging that "I know change is difficult for some people," Pileggi said voters have become accustomed to showing photo ID to purchase prescriptions or when they travel, so one more instance shouldn't be that troubling, The suburban Philadelphia lawmaker's assertion provoked a sharp retort from the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Vince Hughes of Philadelphia, who reminded Pileggi that voting, unlike his other examples, was "a constitutional right."

More than once, the committee's Democrats referred to the bill authored by House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, as a "solution in seach of a problem," because backers had not been able to show systemic voter fraud. Democrats bristled at partisan rejections of measures that they said would make sure that voters were fully informed of changes in voting requirements. "Are you will to assume that everyone you represent has access to the same kind of information that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis?" Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, asked his blackBerry and iPhone using colleagues. :"Are you willing to gamble with their fundamental rights?"

One committee member, Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, was ruled out of order after he referred to Metcalfe, one of the Legislature's most vocal conservatives as "the little cousin" of former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy. Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, denounced the bill as part of "vast right-wing conspiracy," earning sharp GOP denials. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Majority Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said he "did not anticipate any problem" with the Senate's amendatory language if -- and when -- the bill returns to the House for a concurrennce vote. Corbett administration spokesman Kevin Harley could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.