FCC Wants Broadcast Spectrum Auctioned by 2014
Seeks broadcaster input on how to repack stations after reverse auction
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
It is described as a comprehensive treatment rather than the first of a series of items, a lot of detailed proposals that the FCC will then seek comment on and adjust as needed. The FCC is trying to move far enough down the road with this initial proposal to make that auction goal of 2014 a realistic one.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which is being teed up for a vote at the FCC's September meeting, seeks comment on the design for the auctions, but also provides detailed proposals on both the reverse auction to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters and forward auction to get it in the hands of wireless broadband providers, according to an FCC official familiar with the rulemaking speaking on background. The rulemaking will be assigned to a general docket since it involves both the Media Bureau (broadcasting) and the Wireless Bureau (broadband).
The NPRM lays out the proposed reverse auction design, which includes three options for broadcasters who want to offer up spectrum: 1) give up all of it, 2) give up a portion and share spectrum, and 3) move from a U to V. The official said the FCC will try to make it easy for broadcasters to bid on giving up spectrum so they will participate.
He would not comment on the methodology (optimization models) the FCC is proposing for repacking in conjunction with the reverse auction, but suggested it would ask a lot of questions and make broadcasters part of the process.
The FCC will need to figure out a lot of moving parts, including how bidders bid, how winners are determined and how much they get paid. There were no details immediately available on how the FCC plans to repack stations, and repackage spectrum on the "buy" side to make it attractive for wireless 4G and LTE. But the official said the FCC follows the statute in making all reasonable efforts, and making specific proposals in the NPRM, on how to preserve coverage areas and protect stations from interference.
The FCC's goal is to make it attractive for broadcasters to give up spectrum, and repackage those 6 MHZ swaths of spectrum into something that is attractive to wireless companies.
The FCC has plenty of experience with forward auctions; it's the reverse auction that has it covering some new territory.
The NPRM will include a fairly extensive education program, including workshops, but the official said that this will not be the first of a series of NPRM's, but essentially the whole enchilada, with targeted adjustments, and plenty of time for industry comment--something like a hundred days in total.
The NPRM also proposes what the FCC will consider legitimate moving expenses for tapping into the statutory maximum $1.75 billion fund to compensate broadcasters, and MVPDS, for any expenses in moving/sharing spectrum.
Then, after the auctions, there needs to be a transition plan for broadcasters who are being repacked to actually make that move. The NPRM includes specific proposals for that as well.
"In freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband, incentive auctions will drive faster speeds, greater capacity, and ubiquitous mobile coverage," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said of the NPRM. "These are essential ingredients for innovation and leadership in the 21st century economy where smart phones and tablets powered by 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks are proliferating, and the mobile Internet becomes more important every day. Over the last few years, the U.S. has regained global leadership in mobile innovation -- and we must not let up now."
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