Union Steps Up Campaign to Oppose Verizon Deal With Big Cable

Ads running in four cities

Worried that regulators are heading toward approving the deal between Verizon Wireless and the nation's top cable companies, the Communications Workers of America Friday stepped up its opposition.

The new ad campaign, running since Thursday on cable and broadcast news programming in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Richmond, Va., and CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, attacks Verizon's $3.9 billion acquisition of spectrum and its accompanying pact to co-market wireless and TV services with SpectrumCo companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox. It also encourages consumers to go to a website and sign a petition.

"We want to ensure there are strong remedies that address the kinds of concerns we have raised," said Debbie Goldman, the CWA's telecommunications policy director, during the press conference.

"Behind closed doors, Verizon and the big cable companies have cooked up a monopoly deal that would raise prices and kills jobs…as the doors slam on our high-tech future," the ad says.

CWA officials and lawmakers stressed that the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission impose conditions on the pact to ensure that Verizon Wireless and the cable companies—formerly fierce competitors—continue to compete, by barring the cross-marketing agreements in markets where Verizon offers wired services. They are also advocating that the agencies require Verizon to build out its FiOS television service.

"We should be careful about approving any deal that makes collaborators out of competitors," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in the press conference. Nadler last month organized a letter to the DOJ and FCC raising questions about the agreement. "We want [these companies] to compete," Nadler added.

The deals have generated as much debate as the failed deal between AT&T and T-Mobile, especially around the cross-marketing agreements between Verizon and the cable companies to resell each other's services.

"I've never seen such a groundswell of opposition. It's unprecedented. I think it will resonate with the agencies," said David Balto, a former FTC assistant policy director, who participated in the CWA presser.

The FCC, which received more than 5,200 comments, has set Aug. 21 as its target date for completing its review, but that could also depend on coordinating with the DOJ.

Most analysts believe the deal will be approved, especially after Verizon agreed to sell some spectrum to T-Mobile, but that doesn't mean it will be smooth sailing, especially as groups keep up the pressure. "Until there is an agreement with the government, the potential exists for snags," said Christopher King and David Kaut in a recent Stifel Nicolaus report.