Dish Defends $3 Billion Small-Business Discount in FCC Auction

Dish Network Corp. defended winning $3 billion in small-business discounts at a federal airwaves auction, telling a U.S. senator it used the same tactics as other companies.

The joint bidding arrangements used during the auction that ended in January are “commonplace,” Dish said in a reply Monday to a query from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, a South Dakota Republican.

Dish funded small partners SNR Wireless Co. and Northstar Wireless LLC and the three companies coordinated bids. Dish didn’t win any airwaves, though its partners won markets with bids of $13.3 billion -- a sum that drops to $10 billion with the claimed discounts.

The Federal Communications Commission is weighing whether SNR and Northstar followed rules as it decides whether to hand over the airwaves.

“DISH, SNR and Northstar complied with the law,” Dish said. “Neither the FCC, nor Congress, should shift the goal posts after the fact.”

Tactics like Dish’s have been used at least 36 times before by participants including wireless leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., Dish said in its letter to Thune.

AT&T and Verizon have described their participation in the small-business program as long ago and different from Dish’s.

Auction rules let Dish, Northstar and SNR cooperate on bidding strategies, Dish said.

SNR has “rightfully won” its airwaves licenses and “has exhaustively addressed all of the unwarranted and meritless claims” against its application for airwaves, John Muleta, that company’s sole managing member, said in an e-mail.

“Bidding activities were fully consistent with FCC rules and precedent,” SNR said in a summary of its filing due at the agency Monday.

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