The Rural Telecommunications Group has filed an appeal with the FCC to intervene in the the purchase of 700MHz spectrum assests from regional telecom services provider Windstream by AT&T and is asking the regulator to block the transaction.
Six blocks of 700MHz C block spectrum are being purchased by AT&T, with the group fearing that the completion of the transaction would lead to control of a major part of 700MHz spectrum by AT&T and Verizon in three of the six Pennsylvania markets in the region and crowding out smaller carriers that typically serve rural areas, leading to less partnership opportunities for roaming agreements.
The group goes on to state that the deal would “further consolidate the already scarce amount of spectrum below 2.3GHz into the hands of the nation’s second largest mobile operator. This transaction is further proof of a mobile wireless marketplace slowly devolving into a duopoly at the expense of rural mobile consumers.”
The group is seeking hard caps on spectrum holdings, the blocking of the purchase and a motion to limit license and asset holders from holding more than 110MHz of spectrum licenses below the 2.3GHz band.
AT&T is already awaiting approval from the FCC on its recent purchase of Qualcomm’s former blocks of 700MHz spectrum formerly used for its failed MediaFLO mobile television venture, with the telecom group seeking and failing to block that transaction as well.
The group goes on to state that if the FCC does approve the transaction, the regulator should impose conditions on the purchase such as prohibiting exclusivity agreements between carriers and device manufacturers, require all devices in the lower 700 MHz band be operable on all blocks within the band, and to extend automatic roaming obligations to data networks.
AT&T is currently working towards launching the first phase of its LTE network later this Spring, with the goal to cover all of the country by 2013.