The United States Justice Department sent a letter to the FCC urging the Commission to proceed on schedule with the 600 MHz spectrum auctions to give “considerable weight” to promoting competition in the auction.
The Justice Department appears to be siding with T-Mobile, Dish Network, Sprint and other interested parties who’ve implored the FCC to increase the spectrum reserve (i.e. the auction spectrum that AT&T and Verizon won’t be allowed to bid on) from 30 MHz to 40 MHz.
Although the Justice Department doesn’t specifically name any of the stakeholders lobbying the FCC to increase the spectrum set-aside, the agency does reiterate the argument that without at least a 40 MHz reserve, AT&T and Verizon will be able to “further enhance their dominance in low-frequency spectrum holdings, limiting the potential for vigorous competition going forward.”
“In balancing these priorities the Department urges the Commission to give considerable weight in determining the amount of spectrum included in the reserve to protecting and promoting competition and the well-established competition principle that those with market power may be willing to pay the most to reinforce a leading position,” William Baer, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, wrote in the letter.
Baer also said that, with respect to the many considerations that could affect the timing of the 600 MHz incentive auctions, consumers with derive the “greatest benefit from holding the auction as soon as practicable.”
The new comments from the Justice Department echo the demands T-Mobile has been making in its increasingly louder efforts to garner public support for limiting AT&T’s and Verizon’s potential to foreclose smaller bidders during the auction.
Both AT&T and Verizon have countered, arguing that nationwide carriers T-Mobile and Sprint are both backed by multi-billion dollar corporations and not in need of a handout. The companies say that restricting competition for the airwaves available during auction could suppress auction revenues, a concern shared by broadcasters considering whether to give up their spectrum and allow it to be auctioned off.