updated 04:15 pm EDT, Mon March 24, 2008
700MHz auction extortion?
The FCC has agreed to look into accusations of extortion following its 700MHz wireless auction, reports say. While major blocks of the sought-after spectrum were quickly snapped up by companies such as AT&T and Verizon, the D block was largely abandoned, receiving a single $472 million bid by Qualcomm -- well short of the FCC's asking reserve price, $1.3 billion. The investigation will be headed by the FCC's inspector general, Kent Nilsson.
The D block is of vital public interest, as while private companies are allowed to share in it, it is reserved primarily for emergency response teams. A number of groups have therefore asked the FCC to probe charges that a member of Cyren Call, an FCC contractor, triggered a withdrawal of financial backing for Frontline Wireless, once considered a likely D-Block bidder. This, in turn, is said to have scared off other bidders. Recently, Cyren Call is rumored to have wanted $50 million in annual fees imposed on the winning bidder.
Among the groups pushing for an investigation is the 9/11 Commission, given that a national emergency network was one of the recommendations of its formal report. [via eWeek]