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The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted an order relieving Verizon Wireless and other wireless spectrum auction participants of $16 billion in bids for licenses owned by bankrupt NextWave Telecom Inc. On March 26, the FCC refunded about $2.8 billion in deposits to the winners of a January 2000 auction spectrum auction, but left the spectrum purchase obligations in place. The U.S. Supreme Court case is expected to rule on the NextWave case before the end of the year. Verizon and the others never received the licenses, as a federal court ordered that the FCC return them to NextWave. According to Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson, not only is the telecom giant freed from its obligations as part of the auction, it also will shortly receive the remainder of its deposit back. Verizon made a $1.8 billion deposit in January 2000 and now will get the remaining $261 million not already returned. Hawthorne, N.Y.-based NextWave purchased the spectrum licenses for $4.7 billion in a 1996 FCC auction but fell into bankruptcy the following year after making a $474 million down payment. The agency subsequently reclaimed the licenses and re-auctioned them to Verizon Wireless and other telecoms for $16 billion in 2001. As the months have passed and the economic difficulties worsened, it has become increasingly clear that allowing the eligible auction winners to exit the auction is the right course,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement Thursday. �Copyright 2002, The Deal, LLC. All rights reserved.

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