FCC Is Informing Stations of Spectrum Auction Status

Gary Epstein, chair of the FCC's incentive auction task force, says that the FCC next week will issue a public notice informing stations that they will be receiving confidential letters, being sent out next week, informing them of the status of their application to participate in the auction.

That came at an FCC workshop Friday on how to make their bidding elections.

Someone must sign for the letter for it to be delivered. That letter will inform applicants if they are qualified or not qualified because: 1) They are not needed; 2) None of their options could be accommodated; or 3) Because no commitment was made.

If their application is good to go, stations will also be getting the bidding tokens they will need to participate in the auction, as well as the registration materials needed to register their participation by March 29—the window to elect a bidding option opens March 28, but the application system will be available starting March 24 to practice using their tokens.

The FCC says its help desk will be open and fully staffed.

March 29 is the date by which stations that applied to be in the auction must decide to participate—or not—and if so, what among various options they are willing to take. Those could include giving up the spectrum or moving to another channel and stations can provide for backup options if their initial option is not workable.

Unlike broadcasters, whose participation will not be made public until after the auction, the forward auction bidders will be identified.

Epstein said that prior to March 29, the FCC would release the status of the forward auction—companies, mostly wireless carriers—bidding on the spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters. He said that would include which companies have applied to participate and the status of their applications. That would be released "in reasonably short order," said Howard Symons, vice chair of the task force.

The FCC has allowed up to three authorized bidders, in part so that if something happens—medical emergency, etc.—stations are still expected to be able to meet the FCC application deadlines.

The FCC also provided a sneak peek at the bidding software. It published an online user guide Feb. 29.

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.