FCC Approves Rules For A Competitive Spectrum Incentive Auction

BY Heather Greenfield
May 15, 2014

Washington – In a crucial vote that impacts all mobile phone users and those who access the Internet through a wireless connection, the FCC adopted rules for its upcoming 600 MHz spectrum incentive auction that include partial reserve blocks, for which the two dominant carriers may not be eligible in all markets.

While today’s decision includes larger unreserved blocks than originally recommended by staff, this plan opens the door for some winning bids by smaller national, rural and regional carriers.  The low-band spectrum up for auction is especially valuable because it is less expensive to deploy and reaches more locations with higher quality services at lower cost.   Coupled with a fair compromise on the sizing of geographic market areas, and an updated screen in the spectrum holdings docket, this is on balance a good day for mobile wireless competition.

The Commission’s concurrent designation today of modest uniform blocks of spectrum on a nationwide basis for unlicensed use is good news for fixed wireless innovation and competition.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has been an advocate for competition in the telecom industry since the 1980s. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“This incentive auction is a once in a generation opportunity for the FCC to ensure the wireless broadband market is competitive, which keeps prices lower for consumers, motivates better service and encourages innovation.

“We are pleased the FCC took a stance for consumers in the face of political pressure to just turn over more spectrum to the two dominant carriers. The adoption today of pro-competitive limits on low-band spectrum aggregation allows the largest carriers to participate in the auction on a nationwide basis while preventing them from sweeping up all of the frequencies available, which would only support a duopoly.

“Having new spectrum for wireless broadband is increasingly critical for the future of mobile communications. It impacts everything from how well people can access mobile Internet connections to what they pay for them.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Cathy Sloan:

“A competitive bidding process that encourages the broadest participation will generate the largest auction revenues.   Low-band spectrum reserve blocks will promote participation from carriers of all sizes, benefitting consumer choice and coverage in both urban and rural areas.”

“Crafting rules for the incentive auction presented the FCC and its impressive multidisciplinary task force with an unprecedented challenge and we applaud the outcome that is supportive of the public interest and the vitality of non-dominant carriers.”

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