Late last year I had the pleasure of participating in an event on Spectrum Auctions put together by the New America Foundation.  I’ve blogged about the event before, but when it was recently reported that T-Mobile’s CFO, Braxton Carter, stated that consolidation in the mobile wireless sector was inevitable (“It’s not a question of if, it is a question of when”), I was reminded of an interesting anecdote provided by one of the event’s other participants—former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.     Specifically, Chairman Hundt was recounting his experience in designing and implementing the first PCS spectrum auctions back in the 1990s.  (Watch the first video …
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As we all know by now, Comcast announced that it would be acquiring Time Warner in a deal worth about $45.2 billion.  Given the high profile of this acquisition, I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight once again the ample case law on the bounds of the Federal Communications Commission’s “public interest” merger review authority.  (For a full exegesis, please see my law review Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of The “Public Interest” Standard, 18 CommLaw Conspectus 329 (2010) which is available on the Phoenix Center’s webpage here.) First, FCC merger review (aside from being required …
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The Federal Communications Commission is at a crossroads.  Burdened with implementing laws designed for a market structure of a bygone era—and with little prospect of a comprehensive legislative update on the horizon—incoming FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler faces a daunting task to adapt and modernize the agency’s approach to regulation so that we can remove, in President Obama’s words, those rules which have “outlived their usefulness.”  Equally as important, Mr. Wheeler has the related and no less daunting task of re-establishing the FCC’s credibility with the industry, Capitol Hill, the courts and (most importantly) the public as the “expert” agency which not only uniquely understands the …
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Over the past several years, there have been numerous efforts to improve the practices and procedures used at the Federal Commissions Commission.  However, of all of the potential improvements bandied about, I submit that there is one improvement that has been entirely overlooked and needs immediately implementation:  that is, the repeal of Section § 1.1204(6) of the FCC’s ex parte rules, which provides that the Commission and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) can meet in secret as often as they like—without having to file anything into the record about the date of the meeting, who attended the meeting and what was discussed—just so long as …
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In a recent speech, outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski once again reiterated the critical importance of spectrum policy “breakthroughs” to address the “tremendous stress” on the capacity of the nation’s wireless networks “from growing digital demand.”  While Congress and regulators are doing what they can, including addressing tower siting (here and here), reallocating and sharing government spectrum (here and here), and moving forward with the voluntary incentive auctions for broadcast spectrum, these actions represent only partial (and possibly untimely) solutions to spectrum exhaust.  Addressing the problem in the near term will require secondary market transactions for spectrum, where spectrum is reassigned from lower to higher …
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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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Recently, The Hill reported that Representatives Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo—the ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, respectively—wrote a letter to Committee Chairman Fred Upton calling for a hearing to examine the proposed sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon by a consortium of cable companies.  Without question, Congress has the authority to hold a hearing on anything they deem relevant at any time they want.  That said, and with all due respect to the powers of the legislative branch, it is unclear what a politically-charged hearing would contribute at this late stage of the review …
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Over my eighteen years in the telecommunications business, one of my biggest pet peeves has been the politicization of the Federal Communication Commission’s merger review process.  As I noted in a paper entitled Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of the “Public Interest” Standard I authored with my former colleague Tom Koutsky back in 2007 and subsequently published in an academic journal in 2010, my issue is not that the concept of the “public interest” is vague (it is not), but that both sides of the aisle conveniently ignore the relevant caselaw when it is politically expedient (that is, …
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