Senate wants AT&T to divest WiMAX spectrum

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Senators Mike DeWine (R) and Herb Kohl (D) want AT&T/BellSouth combo to divest some of their WiMAX-related spectrum. The $67 billion BellSouth/AT&T merger is under review and needs to be approved by the Department of Justice and the FCC. DeWine and Kohl want the combined companies to divest divest 2.5GHz spectrum, which could help companies that are looking to get some spectrum in that band, aka Clearwire. In a letter to Department of Justice antitrust chief Thomas Barnett and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, they wrote:

“Nonetheless, our concern is that the deployment of WiMAX is not artificially limited, and that it continues to have the potential to be a crucial competitive alternative in the future ….. Therefore, we urge your agencies to carefully examine the market for spectrum, which types of spectrum may necessary to efficiently and economically provide WiMAX service, the impact of this merger on that spectrum market, and any allegations of warehousing, and to taking whatever steps are appropriate to assure that competitive WiMAX services have the opportunity to develop freely in the marketplace, including the divestiture of spectrum if such divestiture is found necessary.”

FCC, under pro-phone company Kevin Martin is happy to push the deal along, but politicians are taking a hard look at the deal. Given that DeWine is one of the biggest recipients of AT&T’s campaign dollars, one wonders how serious he is about the divesture, or is just making political hay and giving the matter lip-service.

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