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Woo hoo! FCC retains open-access provision

Take that, Verizon! Yes, we know we were harsh on FCC Chairman Kevin Martin a few weeks ago, calling him spineless as talks aroused that he was planning to abolish the open-access provision in the 700 MHz spectrum auction. We take it all back now. Yes, Martin and the FCC have taken a stand against the big bully that is Verizon and have said that the open-access provision will remain. We couldn’t be happier.

“I don’t have any plans to try to revise our open-platform rule the way Verizon wants us to,” Martin told reporters outside a congressional hearing.

We applaud Martin for not succumbing to the pressure, especially after AT&T already got themselves some 700 MHz. Without the open-access provision, Verizon and AT&T, along with Sprint and T-Mobile, likely would have bid large sums for the spectrum. They still might, but probably not as large as they had originally intended.

The craziest part is that Martins says he was mulling adding another 30 megahertz to the open-access rules. In essence that means that all but the 10 megahertz reserved for public safety would be open-access.

Why didn’t that happen? Pressure from the smaller telecoms. We find it odd, yet reassuring, that the FCC caved to a group of smaller telecoms, rather than big, bad Verizon. That 30 megahertz is divided into smaller chunks, which smaller and regional carriers can bid on. As we noted yesterday, AT&T may be looking to bid on some of these licenses to fill out its newly acquired spectrum.

We’re not sure why the FCC came to this decision, but we’re damn glad. We need more competition in the telecommunications industry, and that’s what we just might get after this auction. It’s currently slated for January 24. Mark your calendars.

[Reuters] [CNN Money]