| WASHINGTON, April 17
WASHINGTON, April 17 The top U.S.
telecommunications regulator in a letter to a lawmaker on
Thursday reasserted his commitment to help smaller national
wireless carriers get access to valuable lower-frequency
airwaves in the upcoming spectrum auction.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler
reaffirmed his plans to restrict how much spectrum the biggest
U.S. carriers, Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc
, could buy in the auction scheduled for mid-2015.
"The Incentive Auction offers the opportunity, possibly the
last for years to come, to make low-band spectrum available to
any mobile wireless provider, in any market, that is willing and
able to compete at auction," Wheeler wrote to Representative
John Barrow in a letter reviewed by Reuters.
"At the same time, a priority of the auction should be to
assure that companies that already possess low-band spectrum do
not exploit the auction to keep competitors from accessing the
spectrum necessary to provide competition," he also said.
The FCC in May will vote on Wheeler's proposed auction rules
that would reserve part of the spectrum in each market for
bidding by wireless carriers that have less than one-third of
the low-frequency airwaves, valued for their reach and strength.
The rules would benefit the No. 3 and No. 4 nation-wide
carriers Sprint Corp and T-Mobile USA as they
would largely restrict Verizon and AT&T, which Wheeler said
control two-thirds of those frequencies across the country.
AT&T, the No. 2 carrier, fired the first shot against the
proposed restrictions this week, threatening to boycott the
auction. Though some saw the move as bluffing, lack of AT&T's
participation could undermine the FCC's mandate to raise enough
money to pay back broadcasters who give up the airwaves that
will be sold in the auction as well as pay for a new $7 billion
public safety network.
"Companies are free to advocate the views that are in their
best interest, but the public interest is not measured against
the business model of one or two companies; it is measured
against the ability of the market to deliver the benefits of
competition to Americans in urban, suburban and rural America
alike," an FCC official said on Thursday.
Wheeler's letter was in response to one on Monday from
Barrow, a Democrat from Georgia, and 77 other lawmakers in the
House that encouraged the FCC as it prepares for the auction.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Marguerita Choy)