Joan Marsh: Spectrum Auction Diversity is about Market Leaders Setting an Example

by Marcella Gadson on January 25, 2014

Diversity policy in the FCC’s spectrum auctions should focus both on creating opportunities for minority-owned businesses to participate in the auctions themselves, and on the partnerships and commitments larger bidders are able to bring to the table, said Joan Marsh, AT&T’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, in remarks during last week’s Broadband and Social Justice Policy Summit.

“There needs to be more creativity in terms of how rules permit participation,” said Marsh.  “When AT&T buys spectrum, economic benefits will flow to our partners.… There is a very significant role in our company for our diverse partners in our procurement channels, infrastructure spend, and build.”  According to Marsh, 21 percent of AT&T’s total corporate procurement is allocated to diverse-owned businesses, with almost $10 billion spent with minority-owned businesses and $3.2 billion spent with women-owned businesses in 2012 alone.

Noting AT&T’s commitment to mitigating achievement gaps in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education through AT&T Aspire, Marsh said AT&T requires its partners to demonstrate their own commitment to diversity, including diversity within their talent pool.

Last month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the FCC’s long-awaited spectrum auctions could take place in mid-2015.  The FCC Task Force charged with designing the spectrum auction is expected to release a timeline and specific milestones at the FCC’s next Open Meeting on January 30th.

View the entire Broadband: Backbone of the New Economy panel from the Fifth Annual Broadband and Social Justice Summit here.

  • Marcella Gadson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Broadband and Social Justice Web Magazine and Director of Communications at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC).

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