WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government on Thursday moved to eliminate a cap on how much airwaves space a single wireless company can own in a market, opening the way for carriers to provide more mobile services such as high-speed Internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission had previously limited the amount of airwaves space one operator owns in a particular geographic area _ an effort to prevent a single giant company from squelching competition in that market.
On a 3-1 vote, the agency decided to immediately raise the cap from 45 MHz to 55 MHz _ an increase of more than 20 percent _ and eliminate the limit in January 2003.
The agency said the change was intended to address the concerns of some wireless carriers that said they needed more airwaves space to provide advanced mobile services that require more frequencies.
``The decision to eliminate the spectrum cap is an important down payment on overcoming the current spectrum shortage,'' said Tom Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, the industry's top lobbying group.
The new services would allow consumers to receive large amounts of information on their cell phones or handheld devices, surf the Internet or even watch videos.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps disagreed with the change, saying the agency had not done enough to study the airwaves shortage. He said in a statement that lifting the cap would stifle competition in the wireless market.
``This is, for some, more about corporate mergers than it is about anything else,'' Copps said.