Rural Carrier Access to Spectrum More Critical Than Ever

Rural Carrier Access to Spectrum More Critical Than Ever

I get it…if I were running the world, or at least Sprint or T-Mobile, I would seek synergies and scope that allow me to compete – on some level – with the behemoths of AT&T and VZW.  As the wireless market becomes saturated and churn slows down, it’s going to take creativity and scale to claim a critical part of the marketing pie.  But what does that mean for rural America?

More competition in urban markets?  More competition for the same consumer dollar? More battles for spectrum in upcoming auctions and more clout among the largest carriers to “win” those licenses, particularly if the bidding areas are large?  The larger the spectrum block, the less likely a small rural provider can actually “win” to serve their service area, the area that 1) they would like to own to build out to their consumers as demand for more broadband and fixed wireless and other services increase and 2) the less likely the large carriers who will “win” those areas will be to actually build out those rural portions.  I call that a lose-lose proposition!  Especially for rural Americans.

There are some interesting initiatives underway as NTCA and some others in the rural utility space are keenly interested in being able to license and use the CBRS spectrum which is currently under a proceeding at the FCC.  The closer we can get the FCC to move to smaller license areas, the better, so moving with a census tract approach makes the most sense for these rural providers.  Regardless, our drumbeat will be that “the smaller the better” and a more realistic chance that all Americans will be able to benefit from the national resource that spectrum assets are….

More to follow on how this will fit into the proposed merger announced over the weekend but I consider it a shot across the bow that rural Americans should not be left behind in the 21st century’s version of a land rush.

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