FCC Auctions 101: Spectrum Auction Appears Near End

Only a total of $44,200 was bid in round 101 of the Federal Communications Commission's auction of spectrum in the 700-meghertz band being reclaimed in the switch to digital TV.

Broadcasters will take up less of the spectrum with the more efficient digital broadcasts, so the FCC is auctioning some 623 MHz of former broadcaster real estate for advanced wireless services.

The auction generated $19,517,614,900 in bids, including $4.838 billion for licenses with open-access conditions that could be used for a national network, although the high bidders are currently for individual regions rather than the national package.

The FCC had to reach minimum bids for five separate chunks of the spectrum to return at least $10 billion to the treasury. It met the minimums in four of the five.

The only block not to reach its minimum bid -- and that one didn't even get close -- was the D block, which is also enough spectrum for a national network but must be shared with first-responders. The FCC will have to reaction that block with the help of nervous legislators who want to make sure that a national first-responder network gets built.

The auction is not over until there are no bids, and there were still 42 bids in round 101, but they raised the ante only a little over $1,000 apiece. In previous rounds, the increases had been in the millions of dollars.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.