Telcos called out for spectrum squatting


An online publication devoted to broadband issues is wondering why the FCC is even considering moving into television’s spectrum space as part of its National Broadband Plan. It asks the question because of its claim that telco giants AT&T and Verizon are already squatting on about $10B worth of spectrum that they aren’t bothering to use.

The report comes from, and the telcos aren’t the only ones getting called out. It starts by questioning FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s laser focus on television spectrum while communications companies are already sitting on open bands of spectrum.

It goes on to suggest that the telcos are sitting on the spectrum to create an “artificial scarcity,” which in turn leads to for less competition and the ability to charge consumers higher prices.

It even goes beyond that, suggesting that the big telcos regularly engage in anticompetitive behavior with the FCC’s assistance.

It’s ironic, given that Verizon’s own Ivan Seidenberg last year accused cable companies of exactly the same thing. Seidenberg said, “Cable companies have bought spectrum over the last 10 or 15 years that’s been lying fallow. They haven’t been using it. So here the FCC is out running around looking for new sources of spectrum, and we’ve got probably 150 megahertz of spectrum sitting out there that people own that aren’t being built on. I don’t get that. This annoys me.”

Seidenberg went on to suggest that the technical wizards working in the industry have consistently moved the ball forward when it comes to providing more service with less spectrum, and said that the odds are that the increase in spectrum use will be mitigated by more efficient use.

RBR-TVBR observation: Point #1: Television participation in spectrum auctions is supposed to be voluntary – keep it that way. Point #2: It is a matter of common decency to give broadcasters a chance to develop their new digital signals after they went to so much trouble and expense to pull off the digital transition in the first place. Point #3: There is apparently a lot of unused spectrum already just sitting around out there gathering rust. Finish the Congressionally-mandated inventory, already!