McCain, Lieberman introduce D Block bill: The long-awaited D Block reallocation bill from the two senators is finally here. The legislation would devote a valuable chunk of spectrum to public safety agencies for the creation of a nationwide communications network. It would provide as much as $11 billion in funding for the creation and maintenance of the network. The bill comes as House Energy and Commerce members continue to weigh the options on how to build a public safety network, with some favoring a less costly option than D Block reallocation. Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) also backs reallocation. His bill is headed for a markup, though it's unclear when. More details on McCain/Lieberman can be found here, including comments from the senators.
Antitrust group says 'block AT&T merger': A leading antitrust organization wrote to Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), the leaders of Judiciary's Antitrust subcommittee, to warn them about what the group sees as the potential consequences of AT&T's bid to become the largest wireless company in the country by buying T-Mobile for $39 billion.
Quote: The American Antitrust Institute wrote in the letter this week, "This latest merger will come close to replicating the original cell phone duopoly that years of public policy designed to promote wireless competition had sought to dismantle. It is likely to result in higher prices, lower quality, less innovation, and fewer choices for consumers and businesses. ... Based on the publicly available information, we see no adequate legal justification for reducing the number of national carriers from 4 to 3 (or more realistically, 2 1/2, since the merger may have the effect of marginalizing Sprint as a competitor)."
AT&T's view: AT&T's CEO disagrees. Testifying before the Antitrust subcommittee this month, Randall Stephenson argued that the wireless market is robustly competitive and will remain so after the deal. He said that "the vast majority of American consumers have a choice of at least five facilities-based wireless providers" and that "certain critics may attempt to create a myth that only a few national competitors exist, but wireless competition occurs primarily on the local level."
Public Knowledge campaign matches AT&T in ca$h money: The digital rights group held a campaign this week to raise as much money in a week as AT&T spends lobbying in an hour. According to Public Knowledge's calculation, AT&T spends $3,166 per hour on lobbying. Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn announced on Twitter this evening that the drive succeeded.
AT&T merger faces scrutiny in the states:
The latest developments in the merger review at the state level include the following:
— The Louisiana Public Service Commission voted 4-1 earlier this week to open a formal proceeding on the transaction, despite AT&T's opposition of this measure.
— Sprint filed a formal request with the California Public Utility Commission on Thursday asking for it to investigate the transaction.
— Sprint and AT&T are going back and forth in filings in West Virginia on whether the state's public service commission should hold a public hearing on the transaction.
FCC head calls for incentive auctions at TIA Conference in Dallas on Thursday: "The single most important step we can take for U.S. leadership in mobile is implementing voluntary incentive auctions. Incentive auctions would unleash market forces to reallocate this scarce resource of spectrum from less efficient uses to more efficient uses. They are two-sided auctions, providing for licensees like over-the-air broadcasters who voluntarily supply spectrum to receive a share of the proceeds. It's an incentive-based approach, grounded in strong free-market principles.
Speaking of incentive auctions, analysts believe AT&T merger could complicate them: Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus issued a note Wednesday that said the AT&T merger is a complication to prospective spectrum auction legislation. "The planned AT&T/T-Mobile merger is a further complication, as it would eliminate T-Mobile as a spectrum buyer and lower AT&T’s need — thus reducing auction projections." The note added that "we believe major questions remain about how much auction money would be raised [in incentive auctions] — particularly in light of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger plans."
Genachowski responds to Energy and Commerce questions on public safety: The House Energy and Commerce Committee released Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's answers to the panel's questions about the market for public safety equipment.
Apple, Google, Facebook defend privacy policies at Senate Commerce hearing: Senators grilled Apple, Google and Facebook at a hearing on Thursday about their privacy policies and threatened them with legislation to improve protections for smartphone users and children. More here.
FCC meeting agenda announced: The agency released the tentative agenda for the June 9 meeting. Items are listed below, per the release.
Electronic Tariff Filing System Report and Order: The Commission will consider a Report and Order that enables all carriers that file tariffs with the Commission to do so electronically, thereby streamlining their filing processes while also making tariff information more readily accessible to other carriers and the public.
Wider Channel Bandwidths FNPRM: [A further notice of proposed rulemaking] seeking comment on a proposal which may permit operators to use spectrum more efficiently by enabling the use of wider channel bandwidths for the provision of broadband services in the Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and the Educational Broadband Service (EBS).
Space Path Interference Report and Order: The Commission will consider a Second Report and Order adopting technical rules to mitigate space path interference between the 17/24 GHz Broadcasting-Satellite Service (BSS) space stations and current and future Direct Broadcasting Service (DBS) space stations that operate in the same frequency band.
Maritime Automatic Identification Systems Order: A Memorandum Opinion and Order considering a petition for reconsideration of the deadline by which VHF Public Coast (VPC) licensees must vacate Channel 87B following its re-designation for the exclusive use of Automatic Identification Systems and to modify the VPC frequency band.