As the FCC issued a public notice on Wednesday announcing the acceptance of long-form license applications filed by two designated entities (DEs) backed by DISH Network and by other winning bidders in the Advanced Wireless Service (AWS- 3) auction, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) delivered letters to the FCC, DISH Network, and its affiliated DEs to request copies of documents relating to the DE’s bidding activity in the auction.
During the AWS-3 auction, which ended in January, SNR Wireless LicenseCo and Northstar Wireless—both very small business DEs in which DISH holds non-controlling stakes of 85%--bid successfully for 702 licenses that qualify provisionally for a 25% bid credit. The deduction would reduce the companies’ combined gross bid by $3.3 billion. AT&T, Verizon and various other parties have since complained that DISH’s interest in the DEs has enabled DISH—one of the largest providers of video subscription services in the U.S.—to benefit from a bid discount program that was designed by the FCC to provide opportunities for small businesses to acquire spectrum through the auction process. Informing the letter’s recipients that the Senate Commerce Committee “has significant questions about whether conduct surrounding the bidding strategies employed by DISH Network and two affiliates adhered to both the letter and intent of the law,” Thune argued: “an examination of how these affiliated companies approached the auction is the only way for Congress to determine whether this three billion dollar price tag was appropriate.”
Thune has asked the FCC, DISH and its affiliated DEs to produce the requested documents by May 15. The public notice issued by the FCC, meanwhile, opens a ten-day period during which affected parties may petition the agency to dismiss or deny the Northstar and SNR applications or to grant them with conditions. While pledging that his company will work with Thune, a DISH spokesman declared, “we are confident that we fully complied with all legal requirements for the AWS-3 auction.”