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FCC to reevaluate wireless spectrum rules for mergers and purchases

Dan Graziano
September 1st, 2012 at 3:00 PM

The Federal Communications Commission has apparently taken some industry criticism to heart and is planning to take a long, hard look at how it evaluates proposed wireless mergers, unnamed sources have told The Hill. Chairman Julius Genachowski will reportedly send a proposal to his fellow commissioners next week asking them to reevaluate the current merger review process whereby the FCC adopts different rules for evaluating each merger on a case-by-case basis. 

The investigation will ask both industry players and the public for input on whether the FCC should develop a new set of rules that would be applied universally for all proposed wireless mergers. An FCC official told The Hill that the new set of rules could provide “clarity and predictability” to the commission’s review process.

AT&T (T), which has long been critical of the FCC for how it handled AT&T’s failed merger with T-Mobile, applauded the news.

“AT&T has long advocated that the FCC should conduct its review of the spectrum screen in an industry-wide rulemaking where all can participate and a full factual record can be developed,” an AT&T spokesman said. “We appreciate this important step, which should eliminate protracted battles about these issues in individual license transfer proceedings.”

Sprint (S) also expressed praise for the investigation, noting that not all spectrum is equal and that a new set of rules could help smaller carriers.

“The current spectrum screen fails to distinguish between the utility of different spectrum bands for wireless broadband communications,” said John Taylor, a spokesman for Sprint. “We are pleased that the Commission plans to consider improvements to its spectrum aggregation regulations and we look forward to participating in these discussions.”

The proposal is expected to be voted on at the commission’s September meeting.

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