FCC's Wheeler: Operators need to 'show up' for 600 MHz incentive auction

LAS VEGAS—FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that it's crucial that wireless carriers participate in the 600 MHz incentive auction that is planned for mid-2015. Speaking at the Competitive Carriers' Association show here, Wheeler said that a segment of the broadcast industry, which has been very vocal in its opposition to this auction, is saying that there are not enough wireless carriers to participate to make it worthwhile for the broadcasters. "It is crucial that you show up. And show up now."

Wheeler added: "Someone has to put a stake in the heart of this rumor that the wireless industry isn't interested."

Wheeler, who was interviewed onstage by CCA President Steve Berry, also touted the fact that many broadcasters are interested in participating in the 600 MHz auction. Wheeler announced earlier this summer that the agency would start meeting with broadcasters individually across the country to provide an estimate of how much money broadcasters could receive for voluntarily relinquishing some or all of their spectrum rights in the auction. Wheeler said that some well-known broadcasters are planning to participate in the auction and are enthusiastic about the potential business opportunities that might come from it. "Some household names have said they are looking seriously at this," he said.

Berry also pressed Wheeler about LTE roaming, asking if the current data roaming mandate was working. Wheeler said the FCC is currently looking at LTE roaming because of a T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) petition earlier this year that asked the FCC to help define "commercially reasonable" data roaming rates. Wheeler noted that comments have closed on that petition and the FCC is now in the process of evaluating those comments.

In addition, he noted that the FCC has a new policy regarding enforcement of rules and has recruited a former prosecutor to "think more aggressively about how we ensure the rules are adhered too." He also encouraged Berry and CCA members to file complaints if they think existing rules are not being followed.

Berry noted that many CCA members are fearful of retaliation if they file a complaint to the FCC:  "You might be right but you might not survive," Berry said.

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