It’s been just about four months since Verizon Wireless announced its intention to acquire rural carrier Alltel and the proposed merger has yet to arrive on an open meeting agenda at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Yet the nation’s number two wireless carrier is confident the deal will be stamped with federal approval by the year’s end. Public comment is still being accepted on the proposal, according to the FCC.
“We are still targeting to close on the Alltel purchase by the end of the year subject to regulatory approvals,” a Verizon Wireless spokesperson told InternetNews.com. “We continue to respond fully to all requests for information from the FCC,” the spokesperson said.
While the $28.1 billion deal isn’t expected to ignite tons of opposition it has already drawn fire from rural wireless carrier Leap Wireless (NASDAQ: LEAP).
Leap has petitioned petitioned the FCC to deny Verizon Wireless’ the acquisition, claiming it would negatively impact its subscribers and give Verizon Wireless a “massive” amount of spectrum. Industry watchers expect the FCC to impose spectrum requirements on Verizon Wireless in approving the deal.
If approved, the acquisition would make Verizon Wireless the top U.S. wireless carrier as it would add Alltel’s 13.2 million subscribers and push current leader AT&T into second place.
The FCC announced yesterday that its next open meeting on October 15 will target a wide range of issues, from low power television rulemaking to junk fax regulations to oversight on satellite licensing.
According to the FCC, topics for open meeting agendas are made public about three weeks prior to the FCC’s monthly meeting. A second public agenda notice is issued one week before each meeting.
The FCC creates its agenda internally, following discussions and reviews by board members, according to a spokesperson.
There is no set timetable on topics but once an item is on a public agenda, FCC board members are prohibited from discussing the item with more than one other commissioner at a time, according to the spokesperson.
“Interested parties can file comments in the public record if they choose and the FCC may consider those comments, ideas and recommendations,” a FCC spokesperson said in regard to the proposed Verizon-Alltel merger, adding that it is still under review and no date for a vote has been set.
“The chairman [Kevin Martin] has said publicly that he hopes to move it for a vote before year’s end,” said the spokesperson.
Also not on the FCC October meeting agenda is the proposed Sprint-Clearwire WiMAX venture announced in early May.
The FCC said that deal is in the same position as the Verizon-Alltel proposal in terms of regulatory review. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) and Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) aim to join forces in a $14.5 billion WiMAX network venture, in which Sprint will own 51 percent of the new company that will be called Clearwire.
Sprint told InternetNews.com is not concerned the proposal is not on the next FCC agenda, noting that the formal regulatory comment period has concluded.
“We are pleased with the tremendous support from approximately 150 industry, consumer, educational and other groups for the new Clearwire,” said a Sprint spokesperson.
“We believe the regulatory process is on track and expect the transaction, which will speed the deployment of the first nationwide next-generation mobile WiMAX network to close in the fourth quarter of this year.”