The Rural Carrier Association -- representing some of the US' smallest carriers -- has a tumultuous relationship (at best) with industry giants AT&T and Verizon; major sticking points over the past several years have revolved around handset exclusivity and roaming deals that the rural guys need for their subscribers to have functional devices outside their relatively small footprints. The latest battlefront looks to be AT&T's deal to buy the juicy, high-value 700MHz spectrum that Qualcomm had been using to run its MediaFLO network, which the RCA says is a little excessive in light of the fact that the company and Verizon together already hold 70 percent of the available 700MHz airspace out there -- prime territory for LTE. The complaint might be a decoy, though: right in its press release, the RCA says that if the FCC does approve the purchase, it should require automatic roaming on the spectrum so that rural carriers have a chance to offer its customers 4G service there. Presumably, the RCA realizes its chances of actually getting the deal rejected are small -- so it's tying it all back in to the existing roaming concerns it's had. We see what you did there, guys! Follow the break for the press release.

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FCC Should Deny Applications Facilitating AT&T's Acquisition of Additional Spectrum

Washington, DC – Today in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission), RCA (Rural Cellular Association) petitioned the FCC to deny the applications that would grant AT&T a massive new acquisition of Qualcomm's 700 MHz licenses. Due to an unprecedented wave of consolidation and spectrum aggregation in recent years, AT&T and Verizon now dominate the wireless industry. This duopoly harms competitions in the marketplace and decreases consumer choice. To promote competition and benefit consumers, RCA urges the Commission to not approve the spectrum transaction. However, if the Commission does grant the applications, it should require AT&T to provide reasonable data roaming agreements to any requesting carrier, ensure interoperability of devices across all 700 MHz band licenses, and harmonize the technical specifications of the assigned spectrum to be consistent with the technical standards in the Lower A & B blocks.

In a statement, RCA President & CEO Steven K. Berry said, "The FCC talks about the importance of competition in the wireless marketplace, and now is a prime opportunity for the Commission 'walk the walk'. The very fact that AT&T and Verizon hold approximately 70% of all commercial 700 MHz spectrum, share 90% of industry EBITDA, and continue to increase their market share at an alarming rate should be enough to drive the FCC to act on behalf of consumers and promote competition by prohibiting the AT&T acquisition of additional spectrum."

Berry continued, "If the FCC chooses to grant the transaction, despite the obvious competitive harms, it should require interoperability of devices across all 700 MHz band licenses and require AT&T to reach automatic data roaming agreements with any interested carrier. The continued dominance of the two largest carriers must not be further promoted, and it is time for the FCC to take action to ensure a competitive marketplace."

About RCA

RCA is the nation's leading association for wireless providers serving rural and regional areas of the United States. The licensed service area of RCA's nearly 100 members covers more than 80 percent of the nation.

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Rural Carrier Association not happy with AT&T's MediaFLO spectrum buy, asks FCC to reject it