T-Mobile won’t take “no” for an answer from the Federal Communications Commission, which recently confirmed that the agency doesn’t plan to increase the amount of spectrum set-aside for smaller companies in the broadcast incentive auction.
Despite an aggressive campaign by T-Mobile, Sprint and others, the FCC is set to vote July 16 on chairman Tom Wheeler’s incentive auction rules proposal that includes keeping the spectrum reserve at 30 MHz.
Trying to reverse the commission’s decision, T-Mobile cites the conclusions of Dr. William Lehr, a researcher in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an economist and consultant to T-Mobile. Lehr predicts that unless more spectrum is set aside, price-sensitive consumers will be forced to sacrifice quality wireless coverage for price.
By increasing the reserve, Lehr argues that smaller wireless companies will be better able compete with AT&T and Verizon, putting the equivalent of $5 a month into the pockets of consumers for their wireless service.
“Because the reserve is the last, and only, line of defense against anti-competitive foreclosure, expanding the reserve to 40 megahertz is a simple and easily accomplished way of ensuring the success of the 600 MHz Auction and avoiding the unnecessary risk of threatening the viability of continued facilities-based MNO competition.” Lehr wrote in a July 6 ex parte to the FCC.
Wheeler doesn’t seem ready to budge. In a recent blog post, Wheeler explained that the 30 MHz set-aside was the right balance to make sure smaller carriers could get their hands on coveted low-band spectrum.