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FCC votes to keep spectrum reserve at 30 MHz

Much to the dismay of T-Mobile, Sprint and other smaller cable companies trying to compete with AT&T and Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission voted Wednesday night to keep the amount of spectrum set aside for smaller carriers during the incentive auction at 30 MHz.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler (who pretty much has said the FCC wouldn’t increase the spectrum reserve to 40MHz), commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel (D), and Mike O’Rielly (R), approved the item. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (D), approved in part and dissented in part. Commissioner Ajit Pai (R) concurred.

T-Mobile, which aggressively campaigned for increasing the reserve, was diplomatic about the result.

“Chairman Wheeler said competition is the best tool for driving consumer benefits – and he is right. We are pleased the 30 MHz reserve was established in the first place. And we are proud of the strong support we got for expanding the reserve from members of Congress, state government officials, dozens of consumer groups and thousands of consumers who advocated on the side of more competition in the wireless market. T-Mobile is looking forward to actively participating in the auction,” said Andy Levin, T-Mobile’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Commissioner Clyburn dissented in part because she wanted the reserve increased to 40 MHz when the amount of spectrum relinquished from broadcasters exceeded a particular threshold.

“Such a change would have greatly incentivized competitive wireless carriers, particularly those who are reserve eligible in the vast majority of the markets, to bid more in the forward auction. It also would have created greater certainty that we could recover more spectrum from broadcasters….It would have also been important for unlicensed advocates and the wireless microphone community who are currently very opposed to placing broadcast TV stations in the duplex gap,” Clyburn said in a statement.

The item was originally scheduled for a vote during the mega-meeting Thursday, which originally had seven items on the agenda.

The commission also voted on a plan to accommodate wireless mic users . We’re tracking.