The Justice Department's Antitrust Division has recommended that the FCC use "rules, weights, or caps" to prevent industry giants Verizon and AT&T from buying up the most valuable spectrum at auction. The agency argued that ensuring that Sprint and T-Mobile have access to the critical resource will boost competition and lower prices for consumers.
Last month, Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and other Energy and Commerce Republicans warned the FCC that following the Justice Department's advice would limit the government's auction revenue and prevent the firms that need the spectrum the most from obtaining it.
The Republicans urged the FCC to "implement the Spectrum Act as Congress intended" and not to "pick winners and losers before the auction even commences."
But in Thursday's letter, the Democrats argued that the spectrum law "explicitly preserves the FCC’s pre-existing authority to issue rules limiting the amount of spectrum that companies can bid for or own, as long as the rules do not name specific entities or specific persons."
"We believe the views of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice are entitled to serious consideration on such core antitrust principles as market foreclosure and the relative competitive value of various spectrum bands," the Democrats wrote.