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AT&T proposes small carrier protections for spectrum auction rules

At the same time that Dish chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen was using his quarterly earnings call to defend his company’s use of the Federal Communications Commissions’ designated entity rules during the AWS-3 spectrum auction, AT&T issued a blog post to propose a change to those very rules for the upcoming broadcast incentive auction.

Twenty-five rural and small wireless telecommunications companies signed on to the proposal in a letter sent to the FCC wireless communications bureau.

Dish has drawn lots of fire for its participation through two small “designated entity” companies in the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. Verizon went so far as to accuse Dish of collusion.

The FCC recently put out the applications for some of the winning bidders in the AWS-3 auction, including the licenses for SNR Wireless and Northstar Wireless, the two designated entities that were affiliated with Dish. Companies have until the end of Monday to comment on the application for the licenses.

“To avoid incentives for abuse, we propose a strict cap of $10M on the bidding credit available to any individual eligible applicant – an amount that will provide a meaningful benefit to the very types of business the program is designed to benefit while ensuring policymakers that those who seek to abuse the program will not be rewarded,” said Joan Marsh, vice president of federal regulatory for AT&T.

The company also called for build requirements so that spectrum would be licensed only to companies willing to use it.

“We believe that this proposed framework provides strong footing for a logical, equitable and sustainable Designated Entity program – one that encourages broad participation at auction and diverse opportunity in the industry while closing loopholes attractive to those interested only in speculation or financial arbitrage,” said Marsh.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency will review the rules before the broadcast incentive auction, planned for early 2016.