AT&T Attacks the DOJ, Calls Its FCC Guidelines Unlawful

Posted by at 12:05 pm on April 26, 2013

AT&T said that recommendations made earlier this month by the Department of Justice regarding future spectrum auctions are illegal and should be ignored by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Justice Department suggested to the FCC that it set up rules to prevent the nation’s largest holders of spectrum from amassing more in future auctions. Further, the Justice Department argued that the nation’s smaller carriers be given a fair chance to purchase low-frequency spectrum to combat the massive 700MHz holdings owned by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

In a letter to the FCC, AT&T senior EVP and General Counsel Wayne Watts wrote, “It is surprising that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice would even propose measures that are so nakedly designed to help specific companies. The Commission’s mandate under the Communications Act is to promote the competitive process, not to pick winners and losers in that process. Rigging spectrum auctions to favor Sprint and T-Mobile would be unlawful.” Watts lays out 10 pages worth of scathing arguments and discussion about what he calls uninformed musings by the Justice Department.

Watts concludes by saying, “The record overwhelmingly supports spectrum aggregation policies that apply equally to all providers by employing a safe harbor spectrum screen that includes, and treats equally, all suitable available spectrum. A spectrum screen … coupled with case-by-case review for transactions that exceed the screen, strikes the appropriate regulatory balance The Department’s contrary view of an auction that is designed to favor particular competitors would be unlawful and completely unwarranted as a matter of public policy and should be rejected.”

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