The FCC this week formally blocked Dish Network from trying to use embedded “small business” discounts to save $3.3 billion from its recent AWS-3 spectrum auction purchase. During the recent auction, Dish used two affiliated companies by the name SNR and Northstar to nab the discount. Critcs also claimed Dish’s affiliate companies were also used to drive up spectrum prices during the bidding process.
In its Memorandum and Order to Deny Dish’s discount, the FCC made it clear that you actually have to be a small business to nab such discounts (duh), no matter how much legal tapdancing you try to do.
Dish had tried to argue their two affiliate companies were qualified to receive the small business discounts because they held a “non-controlling interest” in the companies.
Except Dish owned 85% of each operation, and the satellite operator was clearly using the holding companies as a way to nab small business discounts it didn’t deserve.
“Our approach to the AWS-3 auction, which followed 20 years of FCC precedent and complied with all legal requirements, was intended to enhance competition – in the auction and in the marketplace long term,” Dish said of the FCC’s ruling.
Dish is still sitting on a notable amount of spectrum, and it remains entirely unclear when (or if) Dish will actually pit it to use. The company has been engaged in apparently unfruitful talks to partner up with T-Mobile, and claims of operating its own, new LTE network appear perpetually stuck in neutral.