What there is, according to Free Press, is the lack of effective spectrum management. It gave a mixed review of FCC approval of the acquisition by Verizon of spectrum owned by cable companies, condemned spectrum hoarding and suggested Verizon may be able to continue the practice.
Free Press Policy Adviser Joel Kelsey praised government pressure that resulted in the sale of spectrum to wireless rival T-Mobile, which it said would provide much needed competition in the space; and the strong data roaming requirements put on Verizon.
He was less enamored of the build-out requirements, calling them “laughable” with an over-long seven-year window to put spectrum to use.
Here is Kelsey’s full statement.
“The FCC and the DOJ have agreed with many of the concerns Free Press raised and those agencies have addressed some of the worst of the consumer harms created by this transaction. However where there was once a glimmer of hope for competition, there are now companies dividing up the market. Consumers would be far better off if this union had never been proposed.
“The best part of today’s order is that, after years of turning a blind eye to problems of spectrum hoarding, the FCC has finally recognized the problems that consolidation produces in the market for mobile services. This country is not facing a spectrum crisis, it is facing a spectrum management crisis. If we want the kind of vigorous competition that helps consumers find lower priced services, the FCC must pursue a strategy to allow more efficient, fair and open use of the public airwaves.
“The spin-off of several AWS licenses to T-Mobile will help provide it with a path to offering consumers an alternative to Verizon and AT&T for high-quality mobile services. Without public and regulatory pressure, Verizon would never have struck a side deal with T-Mobile, and would have continued its long history of amassing excess spectrum and squatting on it in order to hamstring its competitors.
“We are also pleased to see strong data roaming requirements imposed on Verizon. These conditions will help by giving other wireless providers access to the spectrum they need to compete on price with the twin bells, Verizon and AT&T.
“One area of concern not addressed by the FCC’s order is Verizon’s ability to continue sitting on the spectrum it has just acquired. The build out requirements Verizon agreed to are laughable. Seven years is too long for rural and suburban customers to wait for quality mobile broadband service. The length of these requirements exposes Verizon’s misleading claims about its supposedly dire nationwide spectrum crisis. If the company were truly spectrum-starved, it would be putting this spectrum to use much more quickly than in seven years. The true value Verizon finds in most of these licenses is the ability to prevent use of this spectrum by its competitors.
“Today’s order reinforces the need for the FCC to address our country’s broadband competition problem. The FCC just issued a finding earlier this week that broadband deployment and adoption is severely lacking. This transaction will only make that problem worse, unless the Commission creates a comprehensive competition policy to address the challenges ahead.”