Sprint CEO Dan Hesse praised the FCC on Thursday for its pro-competitive
stance, and urged it to adjust its spectrum screen to ensure that the upcoming
broadcast incentive auctions are not dominated by the larger carriers -- AT&T
and Verizon notably among those.
"The way we screen and value spectrum needs to change,"
he said in a speech to the Competitive Carriers Association Global Expo in New
Orleans. Hesse applauded the Justice Department for its support of a spectrum
screen that gives more weight to more attractive low-band spectrum. He pointed
out that 75% of that spectrum is now held by AT&T and Verizon.
The screen is the level of spectrum holdings by one company
in a market that triggers additional FCC scrutiny for possible undue
In those comments -- the FCC sought input on whether and how
to change that screen as it prepares to auction broadcast spectrum -- Justice
said the FCC should come up with some "competition-focused" rules
on spectrum acquisitions, particularly auctions, including taking into account
the differing propagation qualities of different spectrum bands that make one
more valuable than another.
William Baer, assistant attorney general in the DOJ
antitrust division (the new Christine Varney) echoed that support in
a Senate antitrust oversight hearing this week.
Any action the commission takes should promote access to
spectrum by competitive carriers, said Hesse, obviously preaching to the choir.
The FCC's upcoming auction of 600 MHz spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters is
the next opportunity for those competitive carriers to get a "foothold"
in low-band spectrum, he pointed out.
Low-band spectrum is more attractive for
wireless communications because of its superior propagation characteristics
that make it less prone to disruption from buildings and other obstacles.
"It never ceases to amaze me how some executives can go to Wall Street and brag about their unique and massive spectrum position, then come to Washington and claim the exact opposite and then demand the government allocate spectrum to them rather than auction it in an open bidding process as Congress directed," said AT&T senior EVP Jim Cicconi in response to Hesse's comments. "Particularly when that company has failed to even bid in previous auctions of lower band spectrum. This is nonsense, and would simply lead to a failed auction as anyone with sense understands. Moreover, it's not the government's job to give to any company advantages it's been unable to win from consumers in a free market."