A California congresswoman this week urged the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to reverse decisions approving the recent sales of spectrum holding companies to Verizon and AT&T.
Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents portions of Silicon Valley, wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that the acquisitions of Straight Path and FiberTower allowed those companies to receive billions of dollars despite alleged violations of FCC rules requiring them to deploy their millimeter wave spectrum.
She added that the deals concentrated formerly public high-band spectrum — both companies held licenses in the key 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands — in the hands of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers.
“Allowing Straight Path and FiberTower to ‘flip’ public assets for private gain does nothing for taxpayers, but does much to further entrench the dominant incumbents’ long-standing spectrum advantage over their rivals,” Eshoo wrote.
AT&T unveiled plans to buy FiberTower early last year and subsequently announced an agreement to acquire Straight Path for $1.6 billion, but Verizon swooped in with a more than $3 billion offer the following month.
Both deals closed in recent weeks after receiving approval from the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.
Verizon paid a record $614 million penalty to resolve Straight Path’s rule violations, but Eshoo wrote that FCC rules instead required the companies to forfeit their licenses.
In addition to reversing the bureau’s decisions, she called on Pai to allow a full FCC vote on the deals, revoke the Straight Path and FiberTower licenses and auction them off, and “conduct a timely assignment auction of the other available millimeter bands.” She warned that the Straight Path acquisition effectively awarded Verizon a “controlling interest” in the 28 GHz band scheduled to be auctioned later this year.
“Spectrum assignments should be neutral, transparent and efficient, and the current bureau-level decisions are none of these things,” Eshoo wrote.
The Competitive Carriers Association, an industry group that generally represents carriers smaller than Verizon and AT&T, is also urging the FCC to reconsider those acquisitions.
“Industry, the economy and consumers would all benefit from an auction of the valuable high-band spectrum, as opposed to going down the path of further spectrum consolidation by already dominant wireless incumbents,” CCA President and CEO Steven Berry said in an emailed statement this week.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum)