The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) is currently finalizing the rules for the 600 MHz broadcast incentive auction which is scheduled to occur in early 2016. The incentive auction is believed to be the last, best chance for wireless carriers to acquire vital low band spectrum at auction. Low band spectrum is particularly important to rural wireless carriers because of its ability to travel farther than spectrum with higher frequencies. This means rural carriers using low band spectrum can provide coverage using fewer cell sites.

Because of the importance of the auction and its possible permanent impact on the wireless industry, RWA has been heavily involved in the FCC’s incentive auction rulemaking proceeding. RWA has filed comments with the FCC, conducted meetings with FCC staff and Commissioners, submitted data to the FCC showing the harmful effects of various proposals on small carriers, and engaged in outreach to educate its members about the auction. To bolster its advocacy efforts, RWA joined forces with SaveWirelessChoice – a broad-based coalition of public interest groups, competitive wireless carriers, startups, and consumer, industry, and trade associations – to encourage the FCC to adopt pro-competitive rules for the upcoming incentive auction.

The incentive auction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the benefits of mobile wireless competition to consumers and offer higher quality mobile services and better coverage to those living, traveling, and working in rural areas. To help ensure the incentive auction accomplishes these goals and to prevent “excessive concentration in holdings of low-band spectrum,” the FCC created a spectrum reserve in each license area which will be available for auction participants that do not currently hold a significant amount of low band spectrum. Specifically, only those incentive auction participants that hold less than 1/3 of the total low-band spectrum in a particular license area or who are not nation-wide wireless carriers may bid on reserve spectrum.

But, RWA and many others believe the FCC should increase the size of the incentive auction’s spectrum reserve to 40 MHz. Increasing the size of the reserve will give multiple, small competitive wireless carriers, such as RWA’s members, a better chance to win spectrum at auction and provide more competitive services in rural America. Without this pro-competitive change, the incentive auction rules could hinder future competition in the wireless industry and harm consumers living in rural America.

If you would like to learn more about these issues, please contact RWA staff. Also, additional information on the importance of the incentive auction and its impact on American consumers and the future of mobile communications are available on the SaveWirelessChoice website.