Dish Network is claiming a $3 billion discount on a $13.3 billion bid it submitted in a wireless spectrum auction that just came to a close. The Federal Communications Commission offers discounts to small business during such auctions under a program initially created to especially help women and minority-owned businesses.
The problem is that Dish is not exactly a small business. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said that Dish exploiting a loophole in its discount program “makes a mockery” of the program’s original intentions. Pai is calling on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to look into whether Dish should qualify for such discounts. The FCC may be unable to retroactively exclude Dish from eligibility for the discounts. But either way, Dish’s aggressive use of the way the current regulations are written will be a factor in upcoming deliberations about the small business discount program.
Dish used two small companies, SNR Wireless LicenseCo and Northstar Wirlesss, to bid on its behalf, according to the Wall Street Journal. Dish owns an 85% stake in both companies.
The spectrum auction was for what the FCC calls “Advanced Wireless Services,” the wireless frequencies that mobile phone carriers use to transmit voice and data services. AT&T took the biggest share of the spectrum up for auction ($18.2 billion), followed distantly Dish and Verizon ($10.4 billion).