News Ticker

Hill Dems back T-Mobile case for bigger spectrum reserve

A group of Democrats in the House and Senate are pressing Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler to change the rules for the spectrum auction to give smaller wireless carriers a better chance at picking up the coveted broadcast spectrum.

The letters, sent to Wheeler Wednesday, came on the news that FCC staff is recommending keeping the reserve spectrum set aside for smaller carriers at 30 MHz.

If the FCC sticks to that decision, it would be a blow to T-Mobile, the Competitive Carriers Association and others, that have been lobbying hard for the reserve to be increased to 40 MHZ.

Without a bigger reserve, T-Mobile, Democrats and others believe AT&T and Verizon will continue to dominate the wireless market.

“The upcoming incentive auction can advance robust competition by ensuring that companies that currently lack sufficient low-band spectrum have an opportunity to acquire the spectrum necessary to compete,” wrote a group of six Senators led by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Wheeler got a similar letter from four House members led by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.)

The 10 other organizations that formed the Save Wireless Choice campaign made a big play late last week for increasing the size and quality of the spectrum reserve by putting the colorful T-Mobile CEO John Legere out front in a video blog. Legere also made a visit to talk with FCC staff.

There’s still time to change the commission’s mind, the coalition says.

“It’s not over yet,” said Tim O’Regan, a spokesperson for T-Mobile. “We have a long way to go. The public conversation on the future of the mobile Internet continues. The five FCC commissioners still need to make their decision,” he said.

But time is running out. Wheeler is setting the July 16 meeting to vote on incentive auction rules.

In a blog post Wednesday, Wheeler said a couple of times that not everyone is going to be happy.

“Hard decisions in difficult situations mean that no stakeholder will get exactly what it wants,” Wheeler wrote.