FCC Circulates Spectrum Auctions Model

Called a nuts-and-bolts proposal for auctions and TV station repacking, but asking plenty of questions
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According to FCC sources, FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski this week circulated a model of spectrum and incentive auction
repacking as an addendum to its draft notice of proposed rulemaking on an
auction framework, which was circulated last week.

The
model is described as essentially a "tab A in slot B" description of
the process, from reverse auction clock countdowns, to running the winning bids
through the FCC's modeling for reconfiguring that spectrum, to the spectrum's
re-auction to wireless, soliciting questions all along the way.

The
model talks about cross-border spectrum arrangements and says there will
probably have to be different rules for stations along the shared border with Canada and Mexico, seeking comment on
what those should be.

Broadcasters
are concerned about unresolved spectrum-coordination border issues that affect
hundreds of stations
.

The
20-page model, the work of outside consultants rather than FCC staffers,
provides flexibility in the broadband plan for the forward auction--the
re-auction of reclaimed spectrum presumably to spectrum-hungry wireless
broadband players--assuming varying participation in the reverse auction, in
which broadcasters will offer up the lowest price they will take for their
spectrum, and the border issues. So, each market could wind up slightly
different.

The
goal, said an FCC source, is for a unified band plan, but it recognizes that
there could be some markets where there is not enough broadcaster participation
or along the border where it won't be as uniform.

According
to statue, the FCC cannot force any broadcaster to give up spectrum, and the
source said the model is specifically designed not to force anyone's hand,
though that statutory definition is open to interpretation, wiggle room that
could open up the auctions to lawsuits down the road.

FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski has set an ambitious mid-2013 deadline for voting
the proposal and a 2014 deadline for completing both auctions.

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