WASHINGTON May 5 Republicans on the U.S. House
of Representatives' technology panel are urging regulators to
scrap plans that would restrict the top two U.S. wireless
carriers in the upcoming major sale of valuable airwaves,
according to a letter released on Monday.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and
every other Republican on the communications and technology
subcommittee echoed the arguments of Verizon Communications Inc
and AT&T Inc in a letter to Federal Communications
Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of a May 15 FCC vote on
the rules for next year's auction.
Wheeler recently proposed rules for the complex sale of
highly-valued low-frequency airwaves that would reserve part of
the spectrum in each market, up to 30 megahertz, for wireless
carriers that do not already have dominant blocks of
Such restrictions would largely benefit the No. 3 and No. 4
carriers, Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc, by
limiting the two biggest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, which
dominate the low-band spectrum and have criticized the rules in
meetings with FCC officials.
Without naming any companies in their letter, which was
dated May 2, the Republican lawmakers referred to restricted
carriers as "disfavored bidders." They said if Wheeler's rules
are adopted, the regulators would be picking winners and losers
and, by doing so, would "manipulate the market to force the
hands of a select group of bidders."
"This is not how a market-based auction should function; it
is how a cartel controls price," the letter said, urging the FCC
to "allow the free market to decide the fate" of the auction.
The auction's success hinges on television stations
voluntarily giving up control of low-frequency airwaves, valued
for their strength and reach.
Depending on how much spectrum they offer up, AT&T has said
that Wheeler's plan may restrict it and Verizon from bidding on
almost half of the spectrum in the auction.
Republicans agreed, saying that under the rules, "disfavored
bidders" would be pitted against each other to win two of the
three spectrum licenses in a market because the FCC would
"artificially restrict supply."
AT&T has said that the plan could leave only one of the
restricted bidders with a chance to get a block of airwaves
large enough to deploy new-generation wireless technology.
Wheeler is scheduled to testify at a hearing of the House
communications and technology subcommittee on May 20, shortly
after the FCC votes on his proposed auction rules.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros Krasny and Paul