Verizon, FCC spar over spectrum

Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg set off an imbroglio with the FCC by saying that the spectrum crunch facing the wireless industry may not be as serious as many have been making it out to be. The FCC countered yesterday, singling Seidenberg out and noting that Verizon has made numerous public comments indicating that the industry faces a serious spectrum shortfall.

The FCC has made increasing spectrum for mobile broadband a key part of its national broadband plan. The agency yesterday laid out a timetable for moving forward on proceedings for releasing that spectrum; the FCC plans to free up around 500 MHz for mobile broadband by 2020.

Seidenberg touched off the spat in an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. Seidenberg said that the FCC should not be involved in trying to get broadcasters to give up spectrum for mobile broadband in exchange for auction proceeds. "I don't think the FCC should tinker with this," he said. "I think the market's going to settle this. So in the long term, if we can't show that we have applications and services to utilize that spectrum better than the broadcasters, then the broadcasters will keep the spectrum."

Seidenberg added, "If video takes off, could we have a spectrum shortage in five or seven years? Could be, but I think that technology will tend to solve these issues. And I think, as I said, I happen to think that we'll advance fast enough that some of the broadcasters will probably think, let me cash out and let me go do something different. So I think the market will settle it. So I don't think we'll have a spectrum shortage the way this document suggests we will."

In a blog post, FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus called Seidenberg's statements "baffling," and pointed to a series of filings Verizon has made calling for more spectrum. "The fact is, Verizon played a major role in building an overwhelming record in support of more mobile broadband spectrum, consistently expressing its official view that the country faces a looming spectrum crisis that could undermine the country's global competitiveness," Lazarus said.

Verizon spokesman Peter Thonis told FierceWireless the company continues to believe there is a "long-term need for additional spectrum for mobile broadband services."

"In the near term, we support greater reliance on the free market to ensure that, one, unused spectrum can be purchased by those who would use it, and, two, all spectrum is put to its highest and best use," he said.

For more:
- see this FCC blog post
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article

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FCC upbeat about spectrum auction plan
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