Incentive Auctions, Combined With a Revision of Spectrum Aggregation Criteria,Will Lead to Greater Competition
The Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (“RTG”) is greatly encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) announcement today that it has initiated two separate rulemakings, the first geared towards the possible re-introduction of a spectrum aggregation limit – also known as a “spectrum cap” – for mobile wireless carriers and a de novo review of the Commission’s policies governing mobile spectrum holdings when reviewing transactions and the second designed to implement an incentive auction of digital broadcast television channels. Taken together, the two moves are a reassuring reminder that the FCC values a truly competitive mobile wireless marketplace where small and rural operators are given a chance to acquire new spectrum at auction or in the secondary marketplace in order to launch innovative advanced wireless services. These proposed new rules will limit an over-concentration of spectrum in the hands of AT&T and Verizon (the Twin Bells) which already control over 60% of the country’s premium mobile wireless spectrum.
The following statements can be attributed to Carri Bennet, RTG’s General Counsel:
It is no coincidence that immediately after the FCC scuttled its previously-imposed spectrum caps a decade ago, the mobile wireless industry entered into a phase of hyper-consolidation that has winnowed down the choice of service providers available to Americans. Verizon’s recent acquisition of AWS spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House Networks (and their corresponding elimination as potential facilities-based competitors) is just the latest example of a widening gap between the Twin Bells and the few remaining facilities-based mobile wireless competitors in the United States. Without access to new sources of spectrum, rural operators will be unable to offer the latest and greatest mobile data services (and devices) which will compound their inability to compete efficiently and effectively. More marketplace competitors equals more consumer choice, and more choice inevitably leads to lower prices.
Rural consumers need and expect mobile broadband. The Twin Bells have historically shunned these markets by never deploying next generation services or only years after deployment in big cities. America’s rural mobile wireless providers relish the opportunity to put the public’s spectrum to immediate and good use. As noted by RTG in its 2008 Petition for Rulemaking seeking reinstitution of spectrum caps, spectrum caps are precisely what this industry needs to prevent spectrum warehousing, fortify retail and wholesale competition, and most importantly expand consumer choice. Additionally, examining all future mergers and spectrum acquisitions through the eyes of a lowered spectrum screen will allow the Commission to identify areas of excessive consolidation and warehousing.
About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG) is a trade association representing rural wireless carriers who each serve less than 100,000 subscribers. RTG’s members have joined together to speed delivery of new, efficient and innovative telecommunications technologies to remote and underserved communities. ruraltelecomgroup.org @RTGwireless
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