The US Department of Justice has called on the FCC to more aggressively regulate the amount of 600 MHz spectrum that AT&T and Verizon can own. William J. Baer, the assistant attorney general who oversees the antitrust division, told a Senate subcommittee (pdf) that limits were needed to promote competition in the market for wireless broadband service.
“The Department of Justice’s principal concern is that acquisitions of spectrum, whether at auction or through subsequent transactions, should not be used to create or enhance market power,” it wrote in a letter to the FCC (pdf).
The FCC is preparing to conduct a new auction in the 600MHz band. The DOJ worries that the spectrum will be dominated by AT&T and Verizon, ensuring no further competitors can come to market.
“The Department concludes that rules that ensure the smaller nationwide networks, which currently lack substantial low-frequency spectrum, have an opportunity to acquire such spectrum could improve the competitive dynamic among nationwide carriers and benefit consumers.”
“Today, the two leading carriers have the vast majority of low-frequency spectrum, whereas the two other nationwide carriers have virtually none. This results in the two smaller nationwide carriers having a somewhat diminished ability to compete, particularly in rural areas where the cost to build out coverage is higher with high-frequency spectrum.”
In order to try and give smaller carriers a fighting chance, the DOJ has suggested that big carriers be allowed to buy “smaller blocks” of low-frequency spectrum, and even if firms such as Verizon big for larger spectrum blocks, this should be restricted or disallowed in the FCC’s auction.
The cheapest route to broadband is wireless. And the most cost/effective wireless spectrum is 600 MHz.
The 600 MHz band has the longest range and best penetration. That UHF spectrum is currently controlled by television group owners – who use it without paying one dime to the US Treasury. The FCC is required to raise money to pay off the $25 billion FirstNet first responder LTE network.
If 40 MHz of the 120 MHz were available for unlicensed use – and dedicated to both communities and citizens – perhaps $100 billion (over the cost of fiber) could be saved. With 40 Mhz, cities should be able to deliver 150 Mbps or more on each sector, covering 10 square miles.
Portland, with 137 sq miles, calculated that bringing fiber to the home to everyone would cost $470 million. But some 15 wireless 600 MHz towers (even at $200K each), totals $3 million. Add another $2 million for fiber backbone and management.
That’s 1/100th the cost of fiber.
I don’t know about you, but I could live with ubiquitous 10 Mbps wireless for $19.95/month. Fiber is expensive. Wireless is cheap. But not if it’s a duopoly.
Google, for example, could bid on 600 MHz spectrum – even build out a nationwide network. But there’s a tradeoff. It could be viewed as a political debate.
Republicans (generally) believe its’ better for the federal government to generate more revenue by helping big business. Democrats generally believe it’s better to stimulate the economy through innovation and competition.
I vote for innovation and competition.
Related DailyWireless stories include; T-Mobile Files 600 MHz Proposal – Eliminating “Free” Spectrum, FCC: TV Auction in 2014, FCC Auction Plans for 2014, Cellcos to FCC: Give Us 2 GHz TV Microwave, Municipal Broadband: On Again?, FirstNet: Get Utilities to Pay for It, It’s Official: Austin Gets Google Fiber, FCC Approves Dish Spectrum for Mobile Broadband , Mobile: The New Television, FCC Moves on TV Frequency Auction, FCC Makes TV Spectrum Sharing Official, FCC Gets White Space Autonomy, Municipal Broadband: On Again?, FirstNet: Get Utilities to Pay for It, It’s Official: Austin Gets Google Fiber, Public Service Gives Up 470-512 Mhz, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, First Responders Get Bills for D-Block , Free Spectrum for Cities: Fergetaboutit, Verizon: Spectrum Scarcity is Good, The National Broadband Plan, Battle of the Bands, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth,
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