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Quartet of Senators Warn Against Limiting Auction Bidders

On the eve of the FCC's vote on incentive auction rules, a pair of senators from each party asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reconsider auction rules that "will limit participation by certain carriers in many markets across the country."

Wheeler has proposed carving out some of the spectrum in the broadcast incentive auction that can only be bid on by smaller carriers who do not have at least 1/3 of the low-band spectrum in the relevant market. AT&T and Verizon between them have about 70% of that spectrum.

Signing the letter were senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

They said that limiting participation could not only result in less spectrum being put into the market, but less revenue to pay for not only the FirstNet interoperable broadband public safety network but the $20 billion that incentive auction is expected to contribute to deficit reduction.

They said they were sure the chairman was committed to a successful auction, and to that end should adopt "transparent, fair, and simple rules that neither discriminate against, nor discourage, any carrier from participating in the auctions."

Wheeler has said that the carve-out will still allow carriers to bid for spectrum in every market. He has the backing of the Justice Department on wanting to make sure that the auction spreads the low-band spectrum wealth.