Obama spectrum plan muddied by AT&T/T-Mobile deal

President Obama's plan to make $27.8 billion over the next decade from wireless spectrum auctions is facing concerns that AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA will take the pressure off unleashing more spectrum via auctions.

The White House is holding an event today to highlight the economic opportunities of auctioning off broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband use, which the CTIA has long fought for and the National Association of Broadcasters has been resisting. The Obama administration is going to release a letter signed by 100 economists touting the benefits of the plan.

However, analysts argue the AT&T/T-Mobile deal could diminish the push for the auctions, which have been authorized by Congress but not yet passed into law. AT&T has said said its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile will give it access to spectrum more quickly than the government can get new spectrum onto the market. The White House argues that the demand for spectrum will exist no matter what. 

"Our focus is on enabling the access of spectrum to as many bidders as possible," an unnamed administration official told the Washington Post. "We have to leave it to antitrust authorities to evaluate any mergers, but we believe the demand and appetite under any scenario is going to be considerable."

Meanwhile, lawmakers dealing with a possible shutdown of the federal government are already preparing hearings on AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the deal before June, according to the National Journal, and other committees in both the House and Senate are expected to hold similar hearings.

AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile must be approved by both the FCC and Department of Justice.

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this National Journal article

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