Congress freed up much-needed electromagnetic spectrum for mobile communications services Friday (H.R. 3630), but it set the stage for years of wasteful lobbying and litigating over whether regulators should be allowed to pick winners and losers among mobile service providers.
The wireless industry has thrived in the near absence of any regulation since 1993. But lately the Federal Communications Commission has been hard at work attempting to change that.
A leaked staff report in December helped sink AT&T’s attempted acquisition of T-Mobile. And the commission has taken the extraordinary step of requesting public comments on an agreement between Comcast and Verizon Wireless to jointly market their respective cable TV, voice and Internet services, beginning in Portland and Seattle. Nothing in the Communications Act prohibits cable operators and mobile phone service providers from jointly marketing their products.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski objected to a previous version of the spectrum bill which, among other things, would have prohibited the commission from manipulating spectrum auctions for the benefit of preferred entities. The limitation was removed, and Sec. 6404 provides that nothing in the legislation “affects any authority the Commission has to adopt and enforce rules of general applicability, including rules concerning spectrum aggregation that promote competition.