The FCC Is Unfazed By AT&T’s Threat To Boycott Next Year’s Spectrum Auction

AT&T’s recent threat to steer clear of a spectrum auction, scheduled for next year, isn’t scaring the FCC. FCC chief Tom Wheeler today dismissed AT&T’s poise, stating that he has a “hard time envisioning this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this kind of beach-front spectrum being something that people throw up their hands and walk away from.”

Consider AT&T’s bluff called.

The company is not happy that the auction will likely reserve some spectrum for smaller players in the industry, leaving it and Verizon to compete for a smaller slice of the airwaves than they want. It’s position was articulated thusly:

If the restrictions as proposed are adopted, AT&T will need to seriously consider whether its capital and resources are directed toward other spectrum opportunities that will better enable AT&T to continue to support high-quality LTE network deployments to serve its customers.

Wheeler isn’t impressed. He went on to say that he doesn’t quite believe that a company that “has advocated so forcefully about why is it absolutely essential that they have spectrum like this would pass on the opportunity.”

The issue at hand is that the FCC wants to raise revenue from the sale, and if AT&T sits out, it could lead to a final decline in the sale price. Spectrum, given that it is in a sense finite, shouldn’t go for cheap.

That said, the FCC won’t force AT&T to take part. It can not if it so deems it the better choice. That said, AT&T likely won’t get what it wants, and also won’t take its ball and go home. So, expect 2015 to be quite the year.