FCC Spectrum Auction Bids Slow to Trickle

Total only up by $9 million in latest round

In the first two "lightning rounds" of the final stage of the FCC's spectrum auction Wednesday, the total inched up $27 million in round 42 to $19,524,067,702 but then only $11 million in round 43 to $19,535,666,018—the smallest increase yet in any stage four forward auction round.

The FCC increased the number of rounds Wednesday from four to six and shortened them from an hour to 40 minutes as it tries to wind down the bidding and move on to the assignment-phase auction, where the winning bidders will vie for specific frequencies.

They have been bidding for generic blocks of spectrum.

The auction has already met its benchmarks for closing after this stage, which is the broadcasters' $10 billion price was met, the $1.9 billion in auction expenses and a TV station repack fund was covered, and a minimum price for spectrum in the top 40 markets was met.

But the auction will continue until there is no more bidding in any of the 416 markets. Demand continued to exceed supply in a handful of smaller markets, including Corpus Christi, Texas, Harrisonburg, Va., and Winslow, Ariz., meaning the auction could not yet close.

The FCC is already looking toward the future, sending letters to stations with their post-auction channel assignments, for one. And now that the FCC has waived the bidding quiet period for broadcasters in the auction, some station owners have publicly announced their total winning bids—with Fox saying it had reaped about $350 million and Gray about $90 million. They did not say for which stations, or how many, they had secured winning bids.

The FCC will not release any of that bidding information until after the auction has ended but is letting stations do so to help speed the post-auction repack, which could include channel-sharing deals.