The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly planning to review its “spectrum screen” rules before it moves forward with a plan to auction spectrum currently used by over-the-air broadcasters. At its September 28 meeting, the FCC is expected to review its current process of analyzing mergers, acquisitions and spectrum deals on a case-by-case basis. Instead, the agency will reportedly consider developing one “spectrum screen” that can be used in all proposed transactions. The screen is meant to help the agency decide whether the amount of spectrum accumulated by any one carrier is enough to hinder competition, ultimately increasing prices for consumers and raising barriers to investment in the industry.
The move comes after strident urging from AT&T (T), which was thwarted by the FCC in its recent bid to acquire T-Mobile USA, and claimed that the FCC had adopted a new spectrum screen when analyzing the deal. “We are looking for spectrum acquisitions,… and we have been very vocal about the need for policy changes,” AT&T’s chief marketing office Cathy Coughlin recently told RCR Wireless News.
Nothing the FCC decides is expected to impact the industry’s most recent major spectrum deal, Verizon’s purchase of AWS spectrum from seven different companies. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA encouraged the agency to review the rules when it was considering that deal, but no action was taken.
OF course the FCC could decide at its September meeting to continue case-by-case reviews of spectrum deals as it auctions off broadcast spectrum. Whatever the outcome, the biggest hurdle to auctioning broadcast spectrum may ultimately be the broadcasters themselves.
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