Competition in Rural America Now Depends on Enforceable Conditions and Specially-Created Complaint Docket
The Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG) respects the time the Federal Communications Commission has spent analyzing the complex business arrangements and accompanying spectrum deal between Verizon Wireless and the Cable Companies. However, the conditions imposed by the FCC are not nearly enough to overcome the anticompetitive activities already initiated by the parties. The one saving grace to be found is the Commission’s bold creation of a new docket focused solely on holding Verizon Wireless’ feet to the fire. This public docket for complaints and petitions is absolutely crucial to salvaging healthy competition and keeping Verizon Wireless and Verizon Communications honest.
The following statements can be attributed to Carri Bennet, RTG’s General Counsel:
“The FCC had the opportunity – especially after the DOJ approved this deal with only minimal conditions – to draw a line in the sand and stand up for America’s consumers. Instead, it will be up to small competitors to keep Verizon honest by monitoring and reporting anticompetitive conduct to the FCC. The cost for small players to go up against the Verizon 800 pound gorilla can be astronomical. The docket that the FCC has directed the Wireline Bureau to open to handle these complaints will be of assistance if the complaint process is handled expeditiously. Meanwhile, the Verizon/Cable mega-deal still causes all of the following harms: removes four potential facilities-based competitors to Verizon Wireless; consolidates more AWS spectrum in the hands of Verizon Wireless – – the same type of spectrum that Verizon Wireless has left fallow since 2006; removes from the secondary marketplace AWS spectrum needed by small and rural operators to launch LTE (especially without a new FCC spectrum auction in the near future to compensate); allows Verizon Wireless and AT&T to continue to create barriers to roaming by promoting a lack of LTE device interoperability; and fails to attach meaningful long term voice and data roaming conditions , especially in light of the tenuous existence of the Commission’s data roaming order being challenged by none other than Verizon Wireless in federal court. What few conditions were imposed must be monitored with vigilance by smaller competitors and consumers. RTG remains hopeful that the FCC will quickly implement several rulemakings that will ’plug the holes’ by pushing for universal intra-band device interoperability, lower the applicable spectrum screen for all future license deals, and re-impose a ’spectrum cap’ so that we as a country don’t turn around and find ourselves with only two communications companies to turn to for service because all the others were taken over or put out of business.”
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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