Washington, D.C. – RWA respectfully disagrees with the Commission on its AT&T and AWN/GCI decisions released today.
In December, the Commission denied an RWA Application for Review and granted a build out extension to T-Mobile after Bresnan/Charter warehoused valuable 700 MHz spectrum for over eight years before selling it to T-Mobile at the eleventh hour. At the time, RWA reiterated its concern that this decision would allow other licensees to sit on valuable spectrum, cash out at the last minute and then allow the licensee more time to build out simply by transferring the license to another entity.
Today’s decisions justify those concerns. In its Waiver Petition, AWN admitted that, prior to its license acquisition from T-Mobile less than six months before the first buildout deadline, T-Mobile had not begun any construction in Alaska. In other words, for seven and one-half years, the license was allowed to lie fallow, while other carriers were precluded from putting that spectrum into service.
The AT&T decision, too, undermines the FCC’s rules against spectrum warehousing by allowing
AT&T to retain the exclusive right to serve the approximately 90 percent of the geographic area of CMA315 that remains unserved more than eight years after the license was granted. Thanks to RWA’s efforts, however, AT&T must file a marker showing its coverage as of June 13, 2017. This filing will hold AT&T’s feet to the fire to meet its obligations for the license. Failure to do so means that AT&T’s licenses will be reduced to the coverage it had as of June 13, 2017. As RWA promised following the Bresnan/T-Mobile Decision, RWA and its members will be paying close attention to AT&T’s progress.
The Commission’s decisions today undermine the intent of the 700 MHz buildout rules to ensure that spectrum is built out and, if not, that it is made available to parties that will use it to build out to unserved rural areas. The FCC has now made clear that it will allow licensees to avoid their buildout obligations by simply requesting extended buildout deadlines via license transfers and waiver requests, to the detriment of consumers in rural areas.