On Tuesday, May 5, 2020, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics (“WTB/OEA”) released an Order granting separate requests for waiver filed by Comcast Corporation (“Comcast”) and Midcontinent Communications (“Midco”) (together, “Petitioners”), so that the parties may each file separate applications to participate in the upcoming auction of Priority Access Licenses in the CBRS 3550-3650 MHz Band (Auction 105), despite Comcast’s interest in Midco (AU Docket No. 19-244).
The Petitioners seek a waiver of the rules prohibiting an entity or individual from filing more than one short-form application or having a controlling interest in more than one short-form application and prohibiting applications for licenses from commonly-controlled entities from being deemed complete. Midco is a general partnership in which Midcontinent Communications Investor, LLC, and Comcast Midcontinent, LLC, an indirectly owned subsidiary of Comcast, each hold a 50% interest, making Comcast one of Midco’s controlling interests. WTB/OEA finds that a waiver is appropriate in this case only because the specific facts presented to demonstrate that, in practice, Comcast does not exercise control over Midco, Comcast and Midco operate as separate entities, and they have represented that they will take precautions specific to Auction 105 to prevent Comcast from exerting control over Midco and to prevent Comcast and Midco from sharing information with respect to the auction and any related plans.
However, WTB/OEA imposes the following conditions on the grant of the requested waivers that will mitigate any remaining risks of coordinated bidding and anti-competitive behavior:
- The Order requires both parties to certify in their short-form applications that they have established internal control measures necessary “to preclude any person acting on behalf of the applicant[s] from possessing information about the bids or bidding strategies of more than one applicant or communicating such information with respect to either apply to another person acting on behalf of and possessing such information regarding another applicant.”
- The Order requires the parties’ commitment to refrain from communicating during the quiet period about any business operations, including decisions regarding services to be offered, pricing, marketing, customer service, geographic expansion, spectrum acquisition, or any other operational aspects of the business. The applicants are also required to certify that they will not conduct any such communication during the quiet period.
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