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McSweeny: DOJ Bidding Input Was to Flag Competition Issues

Democratic Federal Trade Commission nominee Terrell McSweeny Wednesday defended the Justice Department's support, in an ex parte filing, of FCC incentive auction rules that insure smaller networks get an opportunity to acquire low-band spectrum.

The filing came in her nomination hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday.

McSweeny, who worked on the Justice comment, was asked by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) whether she or other DOJ staffers had reviewed previous FCC spectrum auctions to analyze what effect of bidding restrictions on participation and whether DOJ had found any positive correlation between the two.

She said she had not done so, but that the comment was about competition "advocacy" not auction economics. "The comments focus is mainly on flagging potential impact on competitive dynamics of spectrum holdings. We do believe that spectrum is a key input in the wireless space, and the comment that the division wrote, which I was involved in drafting...was focused on flagging that competition concern and suggesting the FCC think about it in designing its mobile spectrum holdings rule." The FCC is considering modifying the spectrum screen it uses to flag deals for undue market concentration of mobile spectrum holdings, which could impact the ability of Verizon and AT&T to bid for spectrum in some markets.

McSweeny said Justice "did not take a careful review of how to design the auction. I think the Department of Justice doesn't hold itself out to be an expert in auction design, merely an expert in competition."