Congressman Parker Griffith commented today on the condition set by the FCC in the SkyTerra/Harbinger Merger. On March 26, the Federal Communications Commission's International Bureau, in conjunction with the Wireless Bureau and the Office of Engineering and Technology, approved the transfer of control of certain licenses from SkyTerra to Harbinger Capital Partners Fund.
As of condition of this transfer, however, SkyTerra/Harbinger may not make the spectrum used by its terrestrial network available to the largest or second largest wireless provider, currently Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless without prior Commission approval. No party to the transfer of control proceeding requested this condition, nor did any party even raise a concern that would result in such a condition.
"It's ludicrous that the FCC would have the overconfidence to assert that the condition is "specific to this transaction.' The condition implicates the ability of wireless carriers to obtain spectrum to provide service to their customers. The FCC should at least be honest about what it is doing," said Griffith.
FCC official, Paul deSa, asserted that this condition had been "volunteered" and that "Harbinger's commitments are, of course, specific to this transaction involving mobile satellite service spectrum and do not affect any of our other spectrum policies (any changes to the Commission's general spectrum policies would involve a notice and comment rulemaking process).'
However, this condition clearly implicates the ability of other spectrum users to obtain spectrum to provide service to their customers. This condition, far from only applying to SkyTerra/Harbinger, impacts the FCC's broader spectrum policies despite the FCC's lack of a notice and comment rulemaking to implement this change in policy.
Griffith went on to state that, "furthermore, this epitomizes the "government-knows-best' mentality of the Obama Administration, the FCC has inserted itself into the marketplace and will micro-manage who can utilize SkyTerra's spectrum to the benefit of consumers. This is simply another example of the FCC abusing the transfer-of-control process to substitute its own judgment for that of the private companies."
While the telecommunications sector continues to expand, Griffith said he can, "only hope that conditions like this don't become routine within the Commission. The Telecommunications sector has expanded greatly without federal interference and I'm hopeful the FCC will further allow private industry to thrive and grow without future interventions."