updated 10:55 am EDT, Fri September 14, 2007
Verizon Sues Over 700MHz
Verizon late Thursday revealed that it was contesting the FCC's rules for the upcoming 700MHz wireless auction through a lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, potentially sabotaging the bidding process. The rules, which demand that companies allow open access to devices and software on the frequency when it becomes available in early 2009, were labeled "arbitrary" and "capricious" by Verizon, which has typically preferred a model that locked customers to its own cellphones and services. The provider's specific legal case accused the FCC of violating the US Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act by imposing the open-access rule on the auction, preventing Verizon and others from using their own business models.
This rule set is "unsupported by the substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law," Verizon said in a statement.
Verizon's actions appear to be a contradiction of its previous stance, where it tentatively supported the auction rules as they seemingly did not interfere with its existing business models. The company also stands in direct opposition to views expressed by AT&T, Nokia and Google, all of whom have said they agree an open spectrum for wireless is essential to more competitive services that might use the 700MHz band for high-speed Internet access. Google itself issued a response to Verizon's move, accusing the provider of trying to avoid competition through legal tactics.
"The nation's spectrum airwaves are not the birthright of any one company. They are a unique and valuable public resource that belong to all Americans. The FCC's auction rules are designed to allow U.S. consumers—for the first time—to use their handsets with any network they desire, and download and use the lawful software applications of their choice," according to Google telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt. "It's regrettable that Verizon has decided to use the court system to try to prevent consumers from having any choice of innovative services. Once again, it is American consumers who lose from these tactics."
If the lawsuit does not significantly delay the bid, the auction would take place in mid-January 2008 and would give the winner roughly a year to prepare devices and services.