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FCC reduces reserve spectrum competition for labor law violator T-Mobile

23 Oct, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new application deadlines for next year’s TV incentive auction, and released a list of markets where AT&T and Verizon cannot bid. With the withdrawal of many if the carrier's competitors, the FCC is clearing the way for a large victory for labor law violator T-Mobile.


Earlier this year T-Mobile and Sprint lobbied the FCC to create rules for the 2016 incentive auction that would create a "reserve set-aside" of spectrum available for bidding by companies that do not have a large portfolio of low-band spectrum. At the time, veteran financial services executive John Burnett wrote about T-Mobile’s request for “special treatment,” concluding that “a rigged auction is a bad idea. It is bad for consumers, bad public policy and bad for the U.S. Treasury. Competition – not crony capitalism – has made the U.S. wireless market the envy of the world. Let’s hope the FCC does the right thing.”


It didn’t. TheFCC adopted rules that reserved a portion of available spectrum for exclusive bidding by companies like T-Mobile, Sprint, and other small carriers that don’t have a lot of low-band spectrum. Now that Sprint has said it won’t participate and other small wireless carriers are hinting they may not participate in the incentive auction, T-Mobile is left in a strong position to buy up that spectrum reserve without any competition.


The FCC has released the list of markets where AT&T and Verizon cannot bid on the reserve spectrum. The markets include the seven largest in the country: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition, AT&T can't bid in Dallas and Miami.


The FCC should be incentivizing competition, not picking auction winners, and particularly not American labor law violators like T-Mobile. In March, a judge at the National Labor Relations Board found T-Mobile guilty of nationwide labor law violations against workers. AsSpeed Matters reported at the time: “At issue were illegal corporate nationwide policies that block workers from organizing or even talking to each other about problems at work. Workers throughout the T-Mobile US system were subjected to and effectively silenced by these illegal policies; the judge’s order to rescind them covers 40,000 workers.”


List of Reserve-Eligible Nationwide Providers in Each PEA (FCC, Oct. 15, 2015)


T-Mobile seen as winner in Sprint's decision to bow out of 600 MHz incentive auction (FierceWireless, Sept. 28, 2015)


T-Mobile’s privileged and unfair position (Speed Matters, Feb. 20, 2015)


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