Last week, Senator Herb Kohl, the powerful Chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski informing them that he “believes” that the pending acquisition of unused spectrum by Verizon from a consortium of cable companies “presents serious competition concerns.”  In support of this position, Senator Kohl not only argues that there is excess concentration in the current wireless market (dominated by Verizon and AT&T), but that the transaction would allow a “dominant firm” to gain “access to essential inputs needed by a rival to compete.”  …
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In his recent keynote speech at the CTIA show in New Orleans, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his (and the industry’s) concern that the “demand for mobile services is on pace to exceed the capacity of our mobile networks” and, therefore, we must “tackle the capacity challenge.” The Chairman has previously foretold of a future where spectrum exhaust could make “consumers [...] face slower speeds, more dropped connections, and higher prices.” Plainly, spectrum exhaust remains a key challenge for both mobile service providers and policymakers. The Chairman also took the chance in his CTIA speech to challenge what we and others have said …
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This past February, we released a paper entitled Wireless Competition After Spectrum Exhaust.  As far as we can tell, this paper was the first serious attempt to model the effect of spectrum exhaust on mobile wireless competition.  We found that the addition of a binding capacity constraint (i.e., spectrum exhaust) to the standard Cournot model of competition reveals that that fewer—not more—firms would lead to lower price, more investment, and more jobs.  Our paper, not unexpectedly, raised a few eyebrows.  (For a CliffsNotes summary of our paper, see my February 8, 2012 blog post.) This weekend, Steven Crowley at GigaOm, a consulting engineer, posted some …
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As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”  Well, in the case of spectrum policy, we got our wish this month when President Obama signed into law the Payroll Tax Extension bill which contained sweeping provisions to free up much-needed new commercial spectrum. While the implementation of the specific provisions of such ambitious legislation will no doubt be complex and arduous, I would like to touch on two general themes in this particular post. First, we at the Phoenix Center are very proud that our research helped contribute to get the D Block assigned to public safety so that our first responders …
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The FCC, in its National Broadband Plan, concluded that U.S. commercial mobile carriers desperately need more spectrum, describing an industry operating with “just a fraction of the amount that will be necessary to match growing demand.”  Echoing the concern, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski cautioned that “without action, demand for spectrum will soon outstrip supply. … If we don’t tackle the spectrum crunch now, network congestion will grow, and consumer frustration will grow with it.” In response, Congress is working on a partial solution to the impending shortfall, including authorizing the FCC to conduct an auction in which broadcasters voluntarily transfer their spectrum to broadband service …
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As noted in our earlier blog posts, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seems to be of two minds when it comes to spectrum policy.  On one hand, he has taken great pains throughout his tenure to warn about the crucial issue of spectrum exhaust for commercial spectrum.  As also noted in our earlier blog posts, the FCC under Chairman Genachowski has at the same time expressed grave concerns about the concentrated nature of the U.S. wireless market in its CMRS Reports and, as such, has condemned large transactions such as AT&T/T-Mobile and imposed a de facto spectrum cap when it approved the creation of the company …
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In an effort to address the current spectrum crunch for commercial spectrum, Congress is working on legislation to empower the FCC to hold voluntary incentive auctions to facilitate the transfer spectrum from broadcasters to mobile carriers.  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, among others, are complaining loudly that the House version of the bill unduly constricts the FCC’s ability to manipulate the mobile industry by excluding some bidders from the auction (primarily the nation’s two most successful wireless firms that a little more than half of all Americans have chosen as their wireless carrier).  As Larry explained in a post dated January 17 and again in a …
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As I noted in my January 17th blog post, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is complaining loudly that the bill now pending before the House Energy & Commerce Committee would unduly constrict the agency’s ability to condition any voluntary incentive auction for much-needed beachfront broadcast spectrum.  Recently, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt came to his protégé’s defense, noting that: no one will benefit if Congress insists on telling the FCC—as the House bill does—who is eligible to bid or how the auction should be conducted. To have an efficient, fair, unpoliticized, neutral, pro-market auction the FCC should continue to be an auctioneer that is above political …
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This past Sunday, Kevin Fitchard wrote a piece in GigaOm entitled If Comcast Can’t Make It in the Wireless Biz, Who Can?  In this piece, Mr. Fitchard laments that Comcast’s decision to sell its AWS spectrum to, and enter into a joint marketing agreement with, Verizon, rather than construct their own 4G network, “raises some troubling questions about the state of the U.S. wireless industry.”  According to Mr. Fitchard, “if a company with a $71 billion market cap and deep roots in the telecom service provider business can’t make a go of the wireless business, what hope is there for any newcomer?”  Mr. Fitchard asks …
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Spectrum Caps 01

Most industry experts and pundits agree that the U.S. needs more spectrum in the hands of commercial mobile broadband providers.  To this end, Congress should be commended for their efforts to pass legislation to give the Federal Communications Commission the authority to hold voluntary incentive auctions to help facilitate the transfer of prime spectrum from broadcasters to mobile broadband providers.  As noted yesterday in Larry’s post, however, last week at CES FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski blasted a bill currently working its way through the House Energy and Commerce Committee because the proposed legislation would eliminate the FCC’s ability to preclude certain companies from participating in …
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