Mr. Wheeler specifically mentioned an April filing by the Department of Justice urging the FCC to craft auction rules that ensure AT&T and Verizon Wireless aren't able to gobble up all the spectrum below 1 gigahertz.

Low-band spectrum can cover greater distances, and is better suited to providing wireless coverage in rural areas. The Justice Department argued T-Mobile and Sprint need low-band spectrum in order to compete with AT&T and Verizon. It said rules favoring the smaller companies "could improve the competitive dynamic among nationwide carriers and benefit consumers."

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