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Verizon Wireless Drops FCC Auction Appeal

Verizon Wireless is throwing in the towel on legal challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's "open access" push in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction in January.

The company had sought to overturn FCC rules that would require winners in the auction for one highly coveted portion of the 700MHz spectrum to offer open access to consumers. Those requirements, established in July, enable consumers to access the spectrum using any mobile device or software they wish.

Verizon Wireless fired back in September, filing a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals that claimed the FCC's open-access rules are contrary to existing law, violate the U.S. Constitution and exceed the commission's authority.

But the FCC earlier this month showed no signs of backing down on its open-access policy, which it had originally intended to foster new competition from non-traditional wireless players, such as Google and other online firms.

In its filing, Verizon said it was dropping the lawsuit in light of a court order that denied an earlier motion by the wireless carrier that sought an expedited review by the court.

A spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, which is a joint venture of Verizon Communications and the U.K.'s Vodafone, declined further comment.

The wireless giant's about-face is likely to mean a smoother path for the auction, which will sell off wireless spectrum that will be freed up when analog television broadcasters switch to digital signals.

Still, other large wireless companies have also taken umbrage with the FCC's proposed auction rules. AT&T, for instance, has filed requests with the commission to reconsider the rules. The company's CEO, Randall Stephenson, also told an audience during last week's Web 2.0 Summit that the FCC's open-access requirements made AT&T unsure about even participating in the auction.

Additionally, small businesses and wireless firms have warned the FCC that another, lesser-known rule might mean that big telecom players could circumvent open-access rules entirely.

In any event, the January auction for the 700MHz wireless spectrum is being closely watched by a number of industries, as Internet firms are likely to be involved should open-access rules remain in place. Google in particular had said it would be willing to commit a minimum of $4.6 billion to bid on spectrum in the auction if the FCC guaranteed open-access requirements.