FCC Updates Spectrum Holdings Policies: Retains Case-by-Case Review; Adds and Subtracts Spectrum from Screen

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The Federal Communications Commission has revised its spectrum holdings policies to add and subtract certain spectrum bands from the suitable and available spectrum that will be considered when the Commission reviews secondary market transactions. The Commission has chosen to retain the existing policy of reviewing transactions on a case-by-case basis and will continue to apply stricter scrutiny to transactions involving carriers that hold 1/3 or more of the suitable and available spectrum in a given market. Aggregation of 1/3 or more of available low-band spectrum (spectrum below 1 GHz) in a particular market will be an “enhanced factor” that will be considered by the Commission.

The Commission has established that regardless of existing spectrum holdings, there will be no auction-specific spectrum aggregation limits for qualified bidders in the AWS-3 auction and the Commission will not require post-auction divestitures.  With regard to the 600 MHz Broadcast Incentive Auction, the Commission has established a market-based reserve of no more than 30 MHz of spectrum that will be available only to reserve-eligible bidders, which includes non-nationwide carriers holding less than 1/3 of available low-band spectrum in a license area. The amount of reserve spectrum available in a license area will be determined when auction bidding hits a “spectrum reserve trigger.” Nationwide carriers that hold 1/3 or more of available low-band spectrum in a license area will be unable to bid on the reserve spectrum.

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