Fighting for the future of wireless competition

Coverage Type: 

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission will vote on a plan to conduct an “incentive auction,” that will pay television broadcasters to give up some of their existing wireless capacity so the FCC can auction it to wireless companies for mobile broadband. As part of this decision, the FCC will consider whether -- as suggested by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division among others -- to adopt rules that keep AT&T and Verizon from strangling competition.

AT&T and Verizon have launched a frantic last minute campaign to eliminate the reserve and retain the right to once again foreclose competition by buying up the licenses. In a nice spot of Orwellian messaging, supporters of AT&T and Verizon accuse the FCC of ‘acting like a cartel’ and ‘picking winners and losers’ by refusing to let AT&T and Verizon monopolize the spectrum. But the proposed spectrum reserve lets consumers, rather than the government spectrum auction, ‘pick winners and losers.’

Eliminating the reserve would convert the auction of spectrum licenses into an auction for a government-sanctioned duopoly. If we really “want the market to decide” -- the actual wireless market where customers choose the carrier that provides the best prices and the best service – then the FCC needs to keep the spectrum reserve when it votes.

[Feld is Public Knowledge's senior vice president]

Fighting for the future of wireless competition