Supreme Court sides with NextWave

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government wrongly seized more than 200 lucrative wireless licenses from a bankrupt telecommunications company.

The ruling was a victory for NextWave Telecom Inc., a young company that won the licenses at a 1996 auction but filed for bankruptcy protection before paying for them.

The airwaves slices have been unused during the protracted fight between NextWave and the Federal Communications Commission, which confiscated the licenses and resold them at a huge profit to larger telecommunications companies.

Now NextWave can finish building a network or sell the licenses to other companies. It will free up wireless spectrum in dozens of crowded markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

"Everyone will benefit from achieving finality, putting the litigation behind us, and getting the licenses into use as quickly as possible to provide service to the public and help fuel economic recovery," NextWave Chairman Allen Salmasi said.

The court, on an 8-1 vote, rejected arguments that the FCC had a regulatory interest in taking licenses from a company that is reorganizing its finances.

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