Larry Downes on FCC’s Spectrum Auctions Struggle

ICYMI, Larry Downes’ piece on the FCC’s struggle to get spectrum auctions moving is worth a read. It’s from last week, but (sadly), it is pretty evergreen, as a quick resolution is unlikely.  Downes touches on the range of challenges causing the logjam, with particular focus on the efforts by Sprint and T-Mobile’s to exclude the larger carriers from the auctions.  Among many problems, Downes says:

Self-serving statements from the carriers aside, there is utterly no evidence that crippling spectrum auctions in the name of competition would accomplish any of the Obama administration’s admirable policy objectives for universal broadband. For one thing, both Sprint and T-Mobile recently completed mergers that significantly enhanced their spectrum holdings. Sprint absorbed Clearwire, and was then acquired by SoftBank, making it the largest spectrum holder in the country, one with an enormous cash infusion to spend on marketing. T-Mobile, at the same time, swallowed MetroPCS (and received beachfront spectrum as part of the break-up fee in its abandoned 2011 merger with AT&T). Both carriers already have unused network capacity for new and existing customers. Indeed, neither carrier bothered to participate in the last major spectrum auction held just five years ago.

He calls for quick confirmation of Tom Wheeler, who has promised to get the auctions moving again.  He also says the FCC should “open the auctions to everyone, and let the spectrum go to the highest bidder.”