The Supreme Court today declined to review an appellate court ruling that rejected NTCH, Inc.’s challenge of two FCC orders approving the transfer of spectrum licenses from the cable consortium SpectrumCo to Verizon Wireless. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not take part in the consideration or decision regarding the NTCH petition.
NTCH had argued that approving the license sale would have anti-competitive effects on small carriers by eliminating SpectrumCo as a potential national force in the wireless service market and thus reducing the pressure on Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Inc., to offer reasonable roaming rates to other carriers. NTCH had sought to block the sale or to have the FCC impose conditions on its approval to ameliorate the transaction’s harms, such as requiring Verizon Wireless to offer reasonable roaming rates.
The high court’s decision not to grant certiorari in “NTCH v. FCC, et al.” (case 16-1304) leaves in place a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (case 15-1145 at the D.C. Circuit) (TR Daily, Nov. 15, 2016). The lower court’s ruling upheld two orders in which the FCC approved the transfer of spectrum licenses to Verizon Wireless, granted the company forbearance, and declined to launch proceedings to revoke other Verizon Wireless licenses acquired between 2000 and 2012.
“The FCC’s decision not to initiate proceedings to revoke Verizon’s licenses is not subject to judicial review. Furthermore, any questions about the licenses Verizon obtained before the Spectrum Assignment are not properly before the court. NTCH’s challenge to the FCC’s grant of prospective forbearance is moot because no foreign entity now has any ownership of Verizon. Finally, the Commission’s determination that the Spectrum Assignment was in the public interest was reasonable and therefore survives arbitrary and capricious review,” the D.C. Circuit had said. —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org