Dish Gets $3 Billion Rejection as FCC Sees No Call to Re-Auction

Dish Network Corp. objected to a decision to deny it and two partners $3.3 billion in discounts intended for small companies buying U.S. airwaves, as regulators said they don’t plan to re-auction the frequencies.

Dish, in a meeting Wednesday with the Federal Communications Commission, was told the agency had decided Dish controls the partners it funded, the company and FCC said in statements. That would mean the partners don’t qualify as small companies, and should pay the full amount for airwaves won in an auction that concluded in January.

“We respectfully disagree with the proposed denial,” said Dish’s general counsel, R. Stanton Dodge. He said Dish’s approach to the auction “followed 20 years of FCC precedent and complied with all legal requirements.”

The discounts would amount to about $1.9 billion for Northstar Wireless and $1.4 billion for SNR Wireless, Dish said.

A draft order, which awaits a vote by the FCC’s five commissioners, concludes there’s no reason to deny Northstar and SNR the licenses or conduct another auction for the airwaves, according to an FCC letter summarizing the meeting.

Northstar and SNR were winners in the record-setting $44.9 billion airwaves auction with combined bids of about $13.3 billion -- a sum that would drop to $10 billion with the discounts.

Last week the FCC voted to change the rules for the discounts, capping credits at $150 million for small businesses and $10 million for rural service providers. The changes were designed to discourage larger companies from trying to use the program with smaller partners.

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