FCC Spells Out Spectrum Screen Policies
The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a Report and Order with respect to spectrum screens and how'll they'll be used in upcoming spectrum auctions and other spectrum transactions. Moving forward the FCC will stick to its one-third rule, meaning the FCC will analyze on a case-by-case basis transactions that might result in a wireless provider owning more than one-third of the available spectrum licenses in a given market. The FCC will scrutinize low-band transactions in more detail, and will consider a breach of the one-third rule an "enhanced factor" in determining if the transaction should be approved. With an eye on the upcoming auctions, the FCC said it will not set any limits for spectrum aggregation in the AWS-3 auction. It believes more than enough spectrum is available to all carriers in the AWS range and limits are not needed. With respect to the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction for 600MHz airwaves, it is changing the rules to give small network operators a fighting chance to acquire spectrum licenses. Specifically, the FCC is reserving 30MHz of the spectrum licenses (per market) for those companies that hold less than one-third of the low-band spectrum licenses in that area. Non-national carriers that have less than one-third of the spectrum will be able to bid on all the spectrum that's made available in the 600MHz auction. National carriers that have one-third of the available spectrum or more will not be allowed to bid on the 30MHz reserve, but will be able to bid on the remaining licenses. The FCC believes this promotes competition, though it will limit what AT&T and Verizon can acquire in the 600MHz auction. Together, AT&T and Verizon already own 70% of the country's low-band spectrum. Sprint and T-Mobile combined own only 15%.