By a 5-0 vote, the FCC voted to review the rules governing the amount of spectrum a carrier can hold. Whatever rules the review leads to, they will affect the way carriers look at acquisitions. CEO's of major U.S. carriers have been speaking favorably about the review, hoping for some transparency. AT&T's Randall Stephenson
and Sprint's Dan Hesse
along with some public interest groups have gone on the record as being in favor of change. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the agency doesn't have a predetermined outcome for the review and merely wants more innovation in the industry.
The FCC said it will review whether or not "bright line" limits need to be defined about how much spectrum a carrier can hold. The review will also determine which spectrum needs to be reviewed and the geographical areas that it will cover. The FCC also will discuss whether or not bands under 1GHz need to be handled differently than higher band spectrum. The last time the FCC addressed these issues was a decade ago when spectrum caps were removed. On the other hand the "spectrum screens" will be looked at. The screen is used by the FCC to review potential acquisitions. If a deal potentially leaves a carrier with too much spectrum and violates the screen, it leads to a higher level of scrutiny
for the deal. Smaller carriers are worried about larger companies like Verizon and AT&T grabbing up spectrum. The Competitive Carriers Association has asked the FCC to consider all of AT&T's prospective spectrum purchases as one big deal to make it easier to review.
Not all of the commissioners are hell-bent on changing things, despite the 5-0 vote. One of two Republicans on the committee, Commissioner Robert McDowell, says there is nothing wrong with continuing to address deals on a case-by-case basis and adds that the return of spectrum caps for the industry would be bad for the mobile market.