updated 06:15 pm EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Smaller carriers favored in auction -- 30MHz reserved
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has confirmed that he plans to limit how much spectrum AT&T and Verizon can buy in the 2015 auction of bandwidth reclaimed from TV broadcasters. The chairman spoke out a day after AT&T threatened to boycott the auction, possibly slashing the reimbursement that the government would get from the auction.
The FCC is aiming for 120MHz of spectrum to auction, which will require nearly 300 stations to participate in the process, giving up the excess bandwidth. At this time, it is not even known if the government will generate the required level of participation from the broadcasters, despite the frequencies not currently being used.
Wheeler wants to retain 30MHz of the 120MHz in every market for bidding by smaller carriers that hold less than 30 percent of the airwaves in the market. AT&T is concerned that the bandwidth restriction will limit LTE network deployment to one large carrier in each market.
"Such restrictions would put AT&T in an untenable position, forcing AT&T to reevaluate its potential participation in the auction," Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulator, said in a filing on Wednesday decrying potential limitations of the auction.
Wheeler's move hopes to bolster competition, and would allow smaller national carriers to provide better rural area coverage. A FCC official said today in response to AT&T's potential boycott that "companies are free to advocate the views that are in their best interest, but the public interest is not measured against the business model of one or two companies; it is measured against the ability of the market to deliver the benefits of competition to Americans in urban, suburban and rural America alike."