House Dems: Auction Law Does Not Prevent FCC Spectrum Screen Move

Take issue with Republican interpretation of incentive auction; say commission could also require post-auction divestitures
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Leading House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats have
given the FCC their take on what incentive spectrum auction legislation has to
say about FCC policy regarding the spectrum holdings of wireless companies.

In
a letter
to outgoing chairman Julius Genachowski (he is exiting Friday, May
17), Ranking E&C member Henry Waxman and ranking Communications
Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo, both from California, said the law clearly
states in a "carefully negotiated" addition to the original bill that
the FCC cannot prevent someone from bidding how meets certain criteria. But it
"does not require the FCC to allow every carrier to bid for every
megahertz of a spectrum band," they said.

In a separate proceeding, the FCC is considering modifying
the local-market spectrum screen it uses to determine how much spectrum in one
market held by one company should trigger additional review. That could
potentially affect AT&T and Verizon, expected to be bidders in the spectrum
auction. The Dems point out that the law also allowed for the FCC "to adopt
and enforce rules of general applicability, including rules concerning spectrum
aggregation that promote competition."

They argue that, in addition to the cap, the FCC could
require post-auction divestiture of spectrum, so long as that was part of a
generally applicable rule.

Back in April, the
Republican leadership wrote the FCC
to take issue with the Justice
Department's support of ensuring that smaller nationwide networks get a chance
to bid, and of weighting
spectrum holdings according to the type of spectrum as well as the amount.

Lower-band spectrum like that being reclaimed from broadcasters is more
valuable to wireless companies because of its propagation characteristics -- it
more easily travel through walls and buildings.

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