Court Hands DISH Companies Second Chance at AWS-3 Licenses with FCC Remand

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has issued a ruling that both affirmed the FCC’s 2015 determination leading to two DISH-affiliated companies being denied AWS-3 license bid credits and remanded the case back to the FCC to give the companies an opportunity to try to cure the underlying control issue. The court agreed that the FCC’s determination that DISH exercised sufficient de facto control over SNR Wireless LicenseCo LLP (SNR) and Northstar Wireless LLC (Northstar) that the companies would not be eligible for the small business discounts they sought in the AWS-3 auction. However, the court also found that the FCC failed to give SNR and Northstar adequate notice that they would not be given an opportunity to cure their DISH relationship in order to qualify for the discounts. Though this decision gives the DISH companies another opportunity to acquire some of the valuable AWS-3 licenses that they forfeited after the FCC’s denial (including New York, Chicago and Boston markets), the court emphasized that nothing in its decision requires the FCC to actually permit a cure and that that choice ultimately remains with the FCC.

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