FCC Chair Stands by Proposal to Limit AT&T and Verizon

Posted by at 11:09 am on April 18, 2014

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today reasserted his belief that AT&T and Verizon need to be restricted from purchasing too much 600MHz spectrum in the reverse auction planned for mid 2015.

Wheeler’s comments came in the form of a letter in which he responded to Representative John Barrow. “The Incentive Auction offers the opportunity, possibly the last for years to come, to make low-band spectrum available to any mobile wireless provider, in any market, that is willing and able to compete at auction,” said Wheeler. “At the same time, a priority of the auction should be to assure that companies that already possess low-band spectrum do not exploit the auction to keep competitors from accessing the spectrum necessary to provide competition.”

AT&T and Verizon Wireless both hold significant blocks of 700MHz spectrum. Low-band spectrum is coveted for its propagation properties. Wheeler wants to make sure smaller companies, such as Sprint and T-Mobile, get a shot at the 600MHz airwaves. Wheeler’s proposal involves reserving 30MHz in each market for companies that control less than one-third of the low-band spectrum in that market. This essentially precludes AT&T and Verizon from participating.

AT&T believes the conditions are unfair and amount to the FCC picking the auction’s winners and losers before it even starts. The company threatened to not participate, which could hurt the auction’s ability to raise capital for a national safety network.

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