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FCC Seeks More Input on Auction Relocation Fund Costs

The FCC's Media Bureau wants to hear more from broadcasters and cable operators about what specific costs of incentive auction repacking they will want to cover out of the $1.75 billion relocation fund Congress approved for that purpose, including specific prices, ways to keep those prices down, and bulk buying.

The FCC's notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the auction, released last December, asked for input on hard costs like equipment and tower services and "soft" costs like legal and engineering costs.

But, according to a public notice the bureau says it wants to drill down on those, as well as strategies to limit costs--the commission has also scheduled a Sept. 30 public workshop to discuss those issues.

The FCC is looking for specific pricing info on repacking costs, including whether there are regular discounts. The bureau said it did not get much info the first time around on bulk purchases, so wants to hear whether manufacturers could be encouraged to provide built-in discounts reflecting the amount of business the FCC will be sending their way via repacking.

It also wants to know whether it would be viable for broadcasters to get together to organize bulk purchases or service arrangements to save money--the $1.75 billion is all broadcasters and MVPDs will be getting.

The FCC is also contemplating requiring competitive bidding for goods or services over a certain threshold, or seeing whether it could limit reimbursements to the price offered by vendors who sell to federal agencies.

The FCC issued a "catalog of eligible expenses" it expects to be paying for out of the fund, though it said there could be others--one of the reasons for the request for further comment.

That catalog, which is currently 14 pages long, includes everything from buying a new transmitter, retensioning a guy wire or new air conditioning equipment to coaxial cable purchases by MVPD's installing new receive antennas.

Attention communications lawyers with trick or treaters, the FCC set an Oct. 31 date for comments, and a Nov. 4 date for reply comments.