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Congress fails to approve NextWave spectrum deal

By Sam Costello
IDG News Service
Boston Bureau

(IDG) -- Before its holiday recess began Thursday, the U.S. Congress did not pass legislation needed to approve the sale of nearly US$16 billion worth of wireless spectrum that once belonged to bankrupt carrier NextWave Telecom Inc. The lack of congressional action throws the sale into jeopardy. INFOCENTER
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After its bankruptcy in June 1998, NextWave's spectrum was seized by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which reauctioned it to a group of wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless Inc., AT&T Wireless Services Inc. and Cingular Wireless LLC. As a result, NextWave was to receive about $6 billion, with the U.S. government netting the balance.

To complete the deal, however, Congress was to pass legislation establishing a judicial review process in the matter, after which there cannot be further litigation. That didn't happen before Congress' session ended Thursday, according to Jim Gerace, vice president of corporate communication for Verizon Wireless.

The deal made to auction the spectrum has an expiration date of January 1, however, and Congress doesn't return to work until January 23, casting doubt on the future of the deal in its current form. "We regret that Congress was unable to provide a legislative endorsement of the agreement before completing their session," Gerace said, but declined to discuss future Verizon's plans regarding the deal.

Sam Costello is a correspondent for the IDG News Service.


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