WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 25, 2014): Today, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) released a White Paper emphasizing the vital importance of minority participation in the FCC spectrum incentive auctions. The paper, titled “Digital Déjà vu: A Roadmap for Promoting Minority Ownership in the Wireless Industry,” focuses on the history and obstacles that have hampered the inclusion of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) as licensees and ultimately facilities-based spectrum owners. Focusing largely on the reform of the FCC’s Designated Entity (DE) program that was designed to promote the participation of MWBEs and rural telephone companies, the paper presents nine public policy recommendations to assist the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in facilitating measurable improvement in diverse participation in the upcoming spectrum auctions. The report emphasizes three key priority areas that deserve the FCC’s immediate attention. The first is the elimination of the Attributable Material Relationship Rule, the second is an increase in bidding credits to at least 40 percent, and the third is the incorporation of diversity and inclusion in the Commission’s public interest analysis of secondary market transactions.
At a press conference held today at the National Press Club, the White Paper’s co-authors, S. Jenell Trigg, Chair of Lerman Senter PLLC’s Intellectual Property and New Media and Technology Practice, and Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt, Managing Director the Ghatt Law Group, were joined by David Honig, President of MMTC; James Winston, Executive Director of the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters (NABOB); Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation; The Honorable Cliff Stearns, former U.S. Congressman and Co-Chair of MMTC’s New Telecom and Internet Policy Task Force; and Bishop Steve Smith, Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute and Media & Telecom Project at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
According to the report, over the course of 56 wireless auctions during the past 20 years, the majority of DEs that currently hold wireless licenses are incumbent rural telephone companies, very few DEs are new entrants, and even fewer DEs are MWBEs. In their presentation of the paper, the co-authors stressed the importance of making minority ownership a critical part of the current media and telecommunications agenda. Co-author Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt stated, “MBEs are great contributors to the national economy, and their contributions should not be taken lightly. I’ve seen more than my share of MBEs that are ready to own, but experience roadblocks.”
While the co-authors do not place direct blame on the FCC for the decline in MWBE participation, they seek to help the FCC to chart more positive outcomes in the wireless market for minority entrepreneurs and businesses. “The purpose of the paper is not to place blame, but to identify and learn from all our failures and successes,” said co-author S. Jenell Trigg, “We must work together to fix the DE program so that it fosters competition and innovation and is inclusive all members of America’s diverse communities. I think Chairman Wheeler is uniquely positioned to make a difference.”
Winston, who was part of a team of investors that participated in the prior FCC PCS C-Block auction said, “The FCC has the potential for getting it right this time or getting it wrong.”
In his remarks, Honig shared the sentiments of all of the speakers, stating, “The time is now to have this conversation and to make minority ownership of commercial wireless spectrum a priority.”
The paper can be found here: http://mmtconline.org/mmtc-white-paper-wireless-ownership-02-24-14/.
The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide. MMTC is generally recognized as the nation’s leading advocate for minority advancement in communications.