With the incentive auction for the 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum scheduled to take place in 2016, a group of carriers have teamed up with some policy advocacy and public interest groups to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to formulate regulations regarding the upcoming auctions that they say, will increase competition by leveling the playing field for smaller players against giants like AT&T and Verizon. The motley lobby group calls themselves “Save Wireless Choice” and includes wireless carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint, Dish Network, and C Spire Wireless among others.
The organization is pressuring the FCC to go ahead with the auction in early 2016 without any more delays, after having already postponed the event from mid-2015 as was originally planned. It also wants the FCC to increase the amount of spectrum specifically reserved for the smaller carriers from the current 30GHz to 40GHz. Doing so, they claim, will “benefit the consumers for decades to come.” The incumbent behemoths however, are not taking any of this lobbying lying down. They argue that by limiting who can and cannot participate in the auctions, the FCC is on the one hand decreasing their own revenues by reducing competition for the airwaves and on the other, scaring away the original spectrum holders – the broadcasters, because of fears of artificially capped revenues.
There has been some amount of mud-slinging as well, leading up to the impending auctions next year. T-Mobile and a group called Mobile Future have accused each other of trying to unfairly influence public policy. T-Mobile accused Mobile Future of being a mouthpiece for Verizon and AT&T, having received a significant amount of financial inputs from the two telecommunication giants, both of whom are its members. Mobile Future, meanwhile, defended its ground by accusing T-Mobile of distorting facts and falsifying its claims of being short of spectrum and took potshots at them for not having made enough investments in rural America. We clearly have not heard the end of it. It would be interesting to see how this messy saga plays out in the weeks and months to come, and which way the FCC will swing eventually. As long as the consumer benefits in the end, most people without a vested interest won’t be complaining.