Pending DTV Spectrum Auction Necessitates FCC Policy Allowing Broad Carrier Access to Valuable Low Band Spectrum
The Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG) and numerous wireless operators, industry associations and public interest organizations have submitted a joint-letter to the Federal Communications Commission supporting both the agency’s ongoing comprehensive review of its current spectrum holdings rules and the United States Department of Justice’s recent ex parte submission to the FCC recommending a pro-competition mobile broadband policy that includes rules enabling a broad level of participation in new spectrum auctions. In the coming years, the FCC will auction large swaths of 600 MHz Band spectrum which is currently used by TV broadcasters. Allowing a broad degree of bidder participation in the 600 MHz auction will not only further Congress’ pro-competitive goals for the future of the wireless industry but it will also enhance the amount of revenue received by the U.S. Treasury.
Nonetheless, AT&T, Inc. has publicly rebuked DOJ by suggesting that its proposed changes to the FCC’s spectrum holdings rules would be tantamount to rigging the forthcoming 600 MHz Band spectrum auction. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Communications Act already compels the Commission to “avoid excessive concentration of licenses” by distributing licenses to “a wide variety of applicants” while the recent Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 further directs the Commission to adopt and enforce rules “concerning spectrum aggregation that promote competition.” What AT&T wants is unfettered access to as much prime, low-band spectrum as its deep pockets can afford and to shut out its competitors from this vital, public resource. As RTG and the co-signers articulate in the joint-letter, AT&T and Verizon already control 78 percent of the low-frequency broadband-capable spectrum in the U.S. and account for more than 80 percent of all wireless industry revenues. Without pro-consumer, pro-competition rules in place to cap the amount of low-frequency spectrum the Twin Bells can hold prior to the 600 MHz Band auction, America will be left with an unmitigated Wireless Duopoly. RTG – The Rural Wireless Advocate fully supports the FCC’s examination of spectrum holdings rules and echoes the anticompetitive concerns raised by DOJ.
“This joint-letter demonstrates that we are the not-so-silent majority” said Carri Bennet, RTG’s General Counsel. “Whenever you have consumer groups and carriers all working in unison for the same goal, it undoubtedly means there is a common sense reason for changing the rules.” She added, “If we allow AT&T and Verizon Wireless to buy all this spectrum, we all lose. Today is indeed the appropriate time to establish objectively fair, pro-consumer, pro-competition spectrum holdings rules. Capping the Twin Bells will promote competition and ensure consumers have more choice.”
About RTG – Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc. (RTG – The Rural Wireless Advocate) 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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