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AT&T warns on ?legal challenge? over open access for 700 MHz

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  • AT&T warns on ?legal challenge? over open access for 700 MHz

    AT&T warns on ?legal challenge? over open access for 700 MHz

    By Jeffrey Silva
    Story posted: July 16, 2007 - 2:26 pm EDT

    First came the policy debate. Now, the legal threat.

    AT&T Inc., parent company of the nation?s top mobile-phone carrier, warned the Federal Communications Commission it will face litigation if it adopts open-access rules for the 700 MHz auction along the lines advocated by Google Inc. and others.

    ?By adopting all or any aspect of Google?s proposal, the commission not only would inhibit broadband deployment by keeping the spectrum out of the hands of those that value it most and would use it most efficiently, but also would invite a serious legal challenge that would throw into doubt the commission?s ability to complete the auction on the timetable contemplated by Congress,? Robert Quinn, AT&T?s senior VP for federal regulatory affairs, told the FCC.

    AT&T?s warning came as more details emerge about FCC Chairman Kevin Martin?s proposal to impose limited open-access conditions on two regional 11 megahertz blocks at 700 MHz. The regional 700 MHz blocks could be joined through combined bidding to form a national license. However, they would not be subject to a wholesale requirement sought by Google, consumer advocates and special interest groups.

    In addition, the limited open-access condition opposed by AT&T and other wireless carriers reportedly would disappear if no auction participant meets a minimum $4.6 billion bid requirement for the combined 22 megahertz. Also, Martin?s proposal would shorten by two years the license terms of those holding 11 megahertz licenses if strict build-out requirements are not met.

    The FCC chairman?s draft order also puts up for auction a 10 megahertz national license that would obligate the auction winner to accommodate the communications needs of pubic-safety agencies across the country. The plan would require the winner of the commercial-public safety license to cover 99.3% of the U.S. population within 10 years.

    The FCC is expected to vote on 700 MHz service and auction rules the first week of August. The auction, which could generate up to $15 billion for the U.S. Treasury, is set to begin in late December or early January.