FCC Chairman Kevin Martin On 700 MHz Auctions

Spencer Ante, a fellow telecom scribe and an editor at Businessweek caught up with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin following the announcement of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction results. His interview is pretty telling, especially Martin dodging the question about new entrants. He espoused that auctions resulted in more broadband competition. Sigh!

Thanks to the auction, we will have more wireless broadband services that could compete with cable modem or DSL service. The auction was a success. The auction will be used to create a third broadband pipe into people’s homes. And that service will be offered by companies that are different than your local phone or cable company.

Okay, maybe different from the cable company, but the big winners according to FCC’s own data are Verizon and AT&T. In some cases, there are regional and independent phone companies that have won, but there aren’t any new players. It is still not clear what EchoStar plans to do with its spectrum.

Would I have liked to see a new entrant on a nationwide basis? Sure. I also do think there are examples of other new entrants. There was another bidder who won a license in every market of the company.

During the interview he kept bringing up the point of multiple licenses in each area, which is just such baloney. Previous auctions also brought many multiple players in different markets, but in the end they all were assimilated into Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile and a couple of other carriers. It is like déjà vu all over again. Of course, when all that happens, Martin would be peacefully installed in the House of Representatives, his ultimate goal.

In the end there was still an incumbent willing to buy the spectrum. I don’t think people anticipated an incumbent would purchase the spectrum with an open access provision. It’s a good thing because it will make all of the wireless industry allow for additional innovation.


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