Alaska Native Wireless seeks to cancel license deal

Posted: Thursday, December 05, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Three Alaska Native corporations that bought rights to wireless frequencies in major U.S. cities have formally asked the government to cancel the deals.

Alaska Native Wireless, a partnership of Doyon Ltd., Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Sealaska Corp., asked the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday to abandon 29 licenses the company purchased in January 2001.

The Native corporations, with major backing from AT&T, have been unable to develop the wireless services because of litigation. The frequencies were originally bought from the FCC by a startup company called NextWave, but the company failed to pay for the frequencies. The agency revoked the licenses and re-auctioned them, but NextWave sued and won.

Alaska Native Wireless was among the companies that bid successfully in the second auction. Verizon, a major East Coast telephone provider, was the largest winner in the re-auction, and it also has announced its intention to drop the disputed licenses.

The FCC took the NextWave case to the U.S. Supreme Court in October, but justices aren't expected to issue a ruling for months. The FCC announced last month that it would allow companies affected by the NextWave lawsuit to withdraw their applications for the wireless licenses.

Alaska Native Wireless also holds 15 licenses, mostly in smaller cities, that were not subject to the litigation. Managers said last month that they still plan to use those licenses. Alaska Native Wireless obtained the licenses with the help of bidding preferences.

''Alaska Natives have been consistently recognized by Congress as a uniquely disadvantaged group, and the chance to work with a quality industry partner like AT&T Wireless, and to develop a presence in this industry, is very important for our shareholders,'' Doyon President Orie Williams said in a news release.

Doyon has about $25 million invested in Alaska Native Wireless. Last month, Alaska Native Wireless managers said the partners would get back all the money associated with the NextWave license bids.

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