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Editorial: Time for Answers

Broadcasters don't like the way the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction rules are shaping up. Meanwhile, the two largest wireless companies aren’t too happy with auction rules that could limit their access to that low-band spectrum.

That bit of double trouble should concern the FCC for obvious reasons: AT&T, Verizon and broadcasters need to participate for the auctions to succeed.

Tallying some 400 pages, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s auction draft is no easy read. And it’s unlikely stakeholders and commissioners will be able to fix whatever ails it in the 21 days between circulation and the May 15 vote.

All of which mean the heavy lifting and negotiating could come after unhappy parties file petitions for reconsideration, or perhaps after a court weighs in down the line if the framework is taken to court, which could happen if the draft item is not modified by that date.

No matter how much money is dangled in front of them on the spectrumsharing promise of both a big payout and enough spectrum to stay in business, broadcasters can’t afford to support an auction that leaves their future in doubt, undervalues their spectrum or is unclear about how they will be repacked after the auction and compensated for the expense. Broadcasters need answers, and the right answers, not more pitches and promises.