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Verizon Commits to Utilize Airwaves Acquired in Cable Deal

Verizon Wireless told U.S. regulators it would commit to making use of airwaves it has proposed buying from cable companies, led by Comcast Corp.

Verizon, in a filing today, told the Federal Communications Commission it will send signals using the airwaves to 30 percent of the people living in areas where it plans to acquire new frequencies during the first three years, and to 70 percent of the population within seven years.

Verizon, the largest U.S. mobile provider, is seeking clearance from airwaves regulators at the FCC and antitrust officials at the Department of Justice for a $3.6 billion deal to buy airwaves from Comcast, the top U.S. cable company, and No. 2 Time Warner Inc.

Verizon in today’s filing also said it would strike agreements to let other wireless companies use its airwaves in areas where it is acquiring frequencies from the cable companies.

Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, wants to add airwaves as customers increasingly adopt smartphones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone to watch video and browse the Web. Comcast and Time Warner are selling airwaves they’re not using.

Critics have said the deal would replace competition with cooperation, bringing higher prices and less choice for consumers.

‘Meaningless Pledge’

The FCC “should reject this meaningless pledge and require that Verizon return or share any unused spectrum after three years,” Derek Turner, research director for the policy group Free Press, which opposes the transaction, said in an e-mail. Verizon has overstated its need for airwaves, Turner said.

Verizon and Comcast have agreed in principle with U.S. antitrust officials to limit joint ventures as a condition for buying the airwaves, people with knowledge of the negotiations said.

U.S. officials are seeking to preserve competition in a telecommunications market characterized by locally exclusive cable companies and a wireless sector dominated by four players, with 60.7 percent of the market held by Verizon and AT&T Inc.

The FCC had set an Aug. 21 target date for finishing its review.

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