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Dish’s Ergen says auction strategy criticism is just “sour grapes”

Charlie Ergen, co-founder, chairman, president and ceo, DISH

An unapologetic Charlie Ergen accused critics of Dish’s participation in the AWS-3 auction through two designated entities  of just “sour grapes.”

Speaking on CNBC, Ergen said Dish as well as SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless, the two designated entities, raised the value of the auction, and therefore the money that was returned to taxpayers by $15-20 billion.

“The taxpayer made more because of our participation,” Ergen said.

Dish, which has been buying up spectrum, has been widely criticized by policymakers for its auction strategy. The company holds a non-controlling majority interest in SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless, two companies that won $13 billion in spectrum while being small enough to qualify for an FCC discount.

The FCC is currently reviewing the licenses, but Ergen isn’t worried. “Verizon has been our largest critic, but they didn’t file formal comments,” Ergen said. (Verizon accused Dish of collusion in the auction.)

“I do believe [the FCC] will allow it to stand,” Ergen said. “All five FCC commissioners chose these rules. I don’t think you can move the goal posts after the rules.”

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said he would look at changes to the rules before the broadcast incentive auction planned for early 2016.

“How the rules were used is an item that is now finally before us,” said Wheeler Tuesday at a Senate appropriations hearing, who added that the FCC has received about a dozen challenges.