Terrestrial auction on hold


With little public explanation, the Federal Communications Commission has
postponed its February auction of spectrum designated for a new terrestrial
competitor to satellite TV until Aug. 6.

Agency court filings in a pending legal battle over the auction plan go a
long way toward explaining the delay, however.

In its latest update to the court, the FCC said its own pending review of
petitions for reconsideration filed by several vested parties, including
would-be bidder MDS America Inc. and opponents of the new service EchoStar Communications Corp. and the
Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, won't be complete until
the first of quarter 2003, too late to be ready for a February auction.

Northpoint Technology Ltd., which first petitioned the FCC to create the
terrestrial service, is the lead plaintiff in the court fight and is seeking to
kill the auction. Judges are holding Northpoint's court fight in abeyance,
however, pending the FCC's re-examination.