FCC Releases Auction Application Procedures

Taking another big step in its March toward a March 29 broadcast incentive auction, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau has released its applications procedures public notice, which outline the process for applying to participate in the auction, both broadcasters giving up spectrum and wireless companies (or cable operators or broadcasters or anyone else) applying to bid for that spectrum.

Broadcasters will need to digest that info and make a decision about participation by Dec. 18. Approximately 2,000 stations, which includes Class A low powers and noncommercial stations, are elligible to participate, according to the new data.

The FCC provided the following timeline for broadcasters participating in the auction. which it has dubbed "Auction 1001 – Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Reverse Auction."

November 17, 2015---Pre-Auction Process Tutorial Available (via Internet).    
December 1, 2015; 12:00 noon Eastern Time--FCC Form 177 [reverse auction application] Filing Window Opens (“ET”).     
December 18, 2015; 6:00 p.m. ET--FCC Form 177 Filing Window Deadline.    
Bidding and Post-Auction Process Tutorial---February 29, 2016--Available (via Internet)
Initial Commitment Deadline--March 29, 2016; 6:00 p.m. ET.

Actual bidding in the auction will not occur until at least three or four weeks after commitment that.

Up to three people can be authoriozed to bid for each applicant, but whoever submits the application must certify that a bid is an "irrevocable, binding offer by the applicant to relinquish the relevant spectrum usage rights at the offered price."

That only means a broadcaster is bound to take the FCC's opening bid, not a dollar less. A station can drop out with no penalty, other than that two years after the auction ends the FCC will reveal that they had been a bidder.

The notice is also packed with appendices full of information broadcasters were looking for to help make a decision about participating in the auction.

That includes information on final constraint analyses--the factors, notably population served and interference potential, that determine how valuable the spectrum will be to the FCC in terms of clearing spectrum. It also includes the file formats for the auction systems and the baseline list of stations that will be eligible for the auction.

Not released was a separate public notice on the final bid prices, which is expected to be released soon given that broadcasters will need those prices by the end of the month if the FCC plans to stick with the end-of-year close of the broadcast application window and the pledge of giving broadcasters 60 days to decide.

The FCC in February released its second Greenhill report (an independent consultant working with the commission) providing estimates of opening bid prices.

To check out the applications procedures PN and its multiple appendices, go here:

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.