Representatives Urge FCC to Revise Wireless Spectrum Auction

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) announced today that he and several other Members of Congress had sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the FCC to consider expanding its wireless broadband incentive auction’s spectrum reserve to at least four blocks of high-quality spectrum.
“Meaningful competition in the wireless broadband market is essential if we want to promote lower costs and higher quality service for consumers,” Congressman Doyle said today in announcing that he and his colleagues had sent FCC Chairman Wheeler this letter. ”We are very concerned that the spectrum reserve the FCC has included in its incentive auction isn’t large enough to prevent the current dominant providers from squeezing out the smaller ones in many spectrum markets.”
Representatives Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Adam Smith joined Congressman Doyle in sending the letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler.
The text of the letter follows below.
June 17, 2015
The Honorable Tom Wheeler 
Federal Communications Commission 
445 12th Street S.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20554 
Dear Chairman Wheeler:
We commend the Federal Communications Commission for its progress in preparing for the broadcast incentive auction scheduled for 2016.  We urge the FCC to take additional measures to ensure the incentive auction increases competition in the wireless broadband market.  
The Department of Justice has warned – and the FCC has agreed – that the incentive auction threatens to foreclose future competition in the wireless broadband market.   To protect competition and prevent gaming, the FCC created a market-based spectrum reserve in each market that prevents dominant providers from knocking non-dominant providers out of the bidding in the hopes of raising prices or reducing quality later.   As currently structured, however, the FCC has adopted a three-block reserve that is not large enough to allow more than one non-dominant carrier the opportunity to acquire enough spectrum for a commercially successful deployment.  
Expanding the spectrum reserve from its current maximum to at least four blocks, or 40 megahertz of high-quality spectrum, will enhance post-auction competition in the mobile broadband market by allowing for up to two non-dominant competitors to acquire the low-band spectrum they need to deploy reliable broadband service.  Increasing the number of broadband providers with access to low-band spectrum promises to increase broadband investment, accelerate deployment, and enhance innovation in rural and urban areas alike.  Absent such an expansion, dominant carriers have the incentive and ability to limit competition in the post-auction market while splitting the non-reserve blocks evenly between each other – an auction outcome that would discourage participation and threaten broadcast incentive auction revenue.
The broadcast incentive auction represents the last opportunity in the foreseeable future for the FCC to provide access to the low-band spectrum necessary for robust wireless broadband competition.
Expanding the size of the spectrum reserve will help ensure that this “once-in-a-lifetime” auction promotes wireless broadband investment, innovation and deployment.  We, therefore, urge the FCC to consider expanding the incentive auction’s spectrum reserve to at least four blocks of high-quality spectrum.  
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.  
                Mike Doyle                                Jared Polis
                Member of Congress                Member of Congress
               Suzan DelBene                         Adam Smith
               Member of Congress                Member of Congress