It sure looks that way for the controversial deal after the companies, the FCC, and Justice Department “reached broad agreement to settle antitrust concerns,” The Wall Street Journal says this morning. Verizon agreed in December to pay close to $4B to a consortium of cable companies led by Comcast for some airwave spectrum they control, as the erstwhile competitors also strike a series of agreements to develop products and cross-market each other’s services. The Journal says that Justice officials warmed to the deal after the companies agreed to apply for anti-trust clearance at least every five years. In addition, Verizon and Comcast reportedly assured officials that they wouldn’t cross-market services in communities where Verizon’s FiOS service competes with Comcast for video, broadband, and phone customers. Still to be resolved: whether the restriction applies to markets where Verizon provides phone and broadband service, but not FiOS which uses state-of-the-art fiber optic lines. Verizon has said that it only intends to finish building out its current markets, and won’t enter new ones. Verizon also recently said that it would auction off some of its airwave spectrum if the cable deal is approved. Critics say that consumer prices could rise if Verizon and cable become collaborators instead of competitors. It would “diminish incentives [for Verizon] to expand FiOS deployment,” 32 House Democrats wrote last month. “This would leave many of the communities that we represent on the wrong side of the digital divide.” But Comcast EVP David Cohen said in March that “there’s nothing in these transactions that will stop us from trying to beat the brains out of FiOS.”
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