You don't have to listen to AT&T executive James Cicconi speak very often to figure out that he's not a big fan of the current Federal Communications Commission.
Cicconi, who serves as AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, strongly criticized the FCC Tuesday during the Free State Foundation's fourth annual Telecom Policy Conference. Cicconi has been a persistent critic of the current FCC's decisions and has further stepped up his attacks on the agency's policies after the FCC helped kill AT&T's proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile late last year.
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Among other things, Cicconi said that the FCC had subjected AT&T to "an arbitrary process" during the attempted merger and said that the FCC's authority needs to be re-examined in light of its recent decisions.
"Do we need two agencies reviewing mergers?" Cicconi asked rhetorically. "We learned last year that the [U.S. Department of Justice] is capable of killing a merger if it wants to."
Cicconi attacked the FCC in AT&T's public policy blog late last year after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski submitted a proposal for an administrative hearing on the merger that would have forced the two companies to defend their merger plans before an administrative law judge. The FCC under Genachowski had contended that the proposed merger would not be in the public interest. Cicconi argued that the commission's analysis of the merger was "so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis." Cicconi also accused the FCC of cherry-picking its facts to justify its decisions and of treating "its own speculations as if they were fact."
Cicconi continued his war against the FCC in February when he responded to objections voiced by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to proposed changes in the FCC's authority to conduct spectrum auctions. Among other things, Hundt objected to proposals that would have barred the FCC from designating spectrum blocks for unlicensed use and would have restricted the commission's ability to bar individual companies from acquiring spectrum in auctions in the name of competitive balance.
"Despite Reed Hundt's recollection, the FCC's track record on auctions is not an unbroken string of successes," Cicconi wrote. "In fact, Hundt's tenure saw perhaps the biggest single fiasco of this sort, the PCS C Block auction. In that situation, the FCC used its discretion in a way that set aside valuable spectrum for 'designated entities', and excluded otherwise qualified companies from bidding. Over half of the 493 licenses from that auction were later returned to the government for non-payment, and the licenses of the largest winner, NextWave, were tied up in bankruptcy litigation for years."
Cicconi's criticisms of the FCC have been echoed by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who earlier this year accused the FCC of trying to "pick winners and losers rather than let the market work."