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The following is attributed to Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge:
“It is unfortunate that AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson still believes that buying out the wireless industry is the only way to improve his company’s spectrum efficiency.
“His comment in this morning’s earnings call that the FCC has made it clear the agency won’t allow acquisitions as a means of increasing spectrum holdings is inappropriate for two reasons. The failed acquisition of T-Mobile would have had far wider implications than simply a spectrum acquisition. It is unfortunate that AT&T thinks that the only way it can increase its spectrum holdings is to purchase a competitor. Using its current holdings more efficiently would also go a long way to relieving the company’s purported spectrum shortage. In addition, the Commission did allow AT&T to purchase spectrum from Qualcomm.
“It is also unfortunate that Stephenson criticized the FCC’s handling of the Qualcomm acquisition by saying that different spectrum ‘screen’ standards were applied for that deal than for the T-Mobile acquisition. There were not. AT&T acknowledged when it applied for the Qualcomm purchase, before it applied to purchase T-Mobile, that the company was bumping up against the screen, a level of spectrum holdings which the Commission uses to determine competitive standards in a market. AT&T executives must surely have realized that adding T-Mobile’s national spectrum footprint to Qualcomm’s national spectrum footprint would put them above the screen.
“The FCC has a fine record in analyzing spectrum markets and in setting terms for auctions accordingly. AT&T wants Congress to rig auctions for the benefit of it and other large companies while neglecting the larger issues of the competitive health of the industry. Congress shouldn’t go along with yet another special-interest plan that benefits the few at the expense of the many and which would eliminate unlicensed spectrum as a source of innovation and economic growth.”