More on the Low Band
Spectrum Debate

Posted by: Joan Marsh on May 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm

As the debate about auction limitations and restrictions rages on, one new argument is particularly notable.

CCA has for months sought low band restrictions or limits in the auction. CCA has long argued that AT&T and Verizon have somehow foreclosed their members from access to low band spectrum (a notion that I debunked in a blog some months ago).  Therefore, CCA has argued, there should be low band limits that restrict AT&T and Verizon in the 600 MHz auction while their members have free reign.

The FCC has now proposed a set of restrictions that basically gives CCA exactly what it has demanded – it is proposing to restrict a carrier’s participation in the 600 MHz auction based on the amount of low band spectrum it holds in its portfolio.  One would think CCA would be cheering from the stands, but they are not.  Why?  Because the FCC’s proposal has finally forced CCA to acknowledge that there are “multiple examples” “throughout the country” of incidences where their members already have a significant portfolio of low band spectrum.  Those members would therefore be restricted under the FCC’s current proposal. 

So, this is the world according to CCA:

- Where their members have significant low band holdings and are subject to auction restrictions, it’s an “unintended consequence.” - Where AT&T or Verizon have the same amount of low band holdings and are subject to auction restrictions, it’s because our low band holdings are “excessive.”

This uncomfortable box that CCA finds itself in is not a surprise to us.  As I noted, small carriers have been quite successful at obtaining access to low band spectrum through auctions, on the secondary market and through Verizon’s LTE in Rural America program.  CCA’s argument also lays bare the fact that low band arguments have largely been proffered by carriers that are seeking little more than auction advantages and preferences – and an auction environment where they can bid free from robust bidding competition.

Worse yet is CCA’s proposed solution.  They seek a carve out for their members that have significant low band holdings while proposing even tighter auction restrictions on AT&T and Verizon.  This is both bad policy and bad law and should be rejected.

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