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AT&T Could Come Under FCC Scrutiny After Sprint, T-Mobile File Letter

October 10, 2014 - Written By Jeremiah Nelson

AT&T proposed some deals for low-band airwave spectrum, but Sprint, T-Mobile, and several others are not happy about t. These companies want the FCC to scrutinize the proposal because it could end up giving AT&T control of about one-third of the spectrum that is below 1 GHz. This could happen in any given market, according Sprint and T-Mobile’s complaint, and they perceive this as an unfair advantage. The FCC determined back in May that a transaction that would allow this to happen could face closer inspection, or “be subject to enhanced review” to use the FCC’s own words.

In addition to Sprint and T-Mobile, the letter was signed by Comptel, the Writers Guild of America, West, Computer & Communications Industry Association, the New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, and Free Press. The letter states, “Seizing on an as-yet undefined ‘enhanced factor’ review for low-band spectrum concentration, AT&T recently filed for a number of transactions that, if granted, would result in AT&T holding more than 45 MHz of low-band spectrum in numerous markets. AT&T is a dominant carrier nationally and in these regions; therefore, the Commission should carefully scrutinize such applications to give meaning to the high hurdle ‘enhanced factor’ review creates and to protect against further anti -competitive concentration of low-band spectrum.”

AT&T thinks that they will be able to get their proposal passed without an issue. They see the proposal as small-time dealings. “AT&T is confident that after a careful, enhanced factor review, the Bureau will conclude that … these small deals will cause no harm to competition and will result in significant public interest benefits,” said an AT&T spokesperson.

AT&T is buying up as much spectrum as it can, but that means that they may have to face up to the FCC’s investigations. The company has a handful of deals, all in the 700 MHz spectrum block, that are waiting on approval by the FCC before they can be completed. Sprint, T-Mobile, and the other companies involved think that AT&T could harm competition in the areas where they are trying to buy spectrum. If the FCC decides that this is actually the case, they could stall or even prevent the spectrum purchases from happening.