It’s unclear that Dish actually cost the US taxpayers anything. (Was it an actual subsidy which was applied to the 2 bids in question or was it only a discount.) It appears that the company may have just done a good job of reading the rules and structuring their bids in an advantageous way.
This however may still be crony capitalism as it is only the big guys like Dish who have the money to navigate the regulatory labyrinth of course. It is definitely crony capitalism if Dish in any way lobbied for the small business “loop hole” or if taxpayers somehow helped finance the “small business” spectrum bids.
What else is not clear is the degree to which this is sour grapes from Verizon and AT&T (the really big guys) which apparently did not use the same tactics as Dish. (One would think they would have if they had known how to do it.)
What is clear is that federal auctions, in this case for public airwaves, are just as shady as ever.
“[T]wo companies in which Dish Network has an 85 percent ownership stake claimed over $3 billion in taxpayer-funded discounts when purchasing spectrum in the AWS-3 auction,” Pai said in his call for an investigation today. “Those discounts came through the FCC’s designed entity (DE) program, which is intended to make it easier for small businesses to purchase spectrum and compete with large corporations. Dish, however, has annual revenues of almost $14 billion, a market capitalization of over $32 billion, and over 14 million customers. Its participation makes a mockery of the DE program.”