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FCC Votes Auction Reconsideration Petition Order

The FCC has pulled the spectrum incentive auction order off the agenda for Thursday morning's meeting, meaning the item has already been voted on by the commissioners.

As B&C first reported May 7, the order denies, with a few technical exceptions, a number of petitions to reconsider parts of its incentive auction framework, including from broadcasters commercial and noncommercial.

The FCC will keep with a variable band plan—potentially freeing up different amounts of spectrum in different markets; will use the updated OET-69 methodology/data for gauging interference and determining coverage areas for TV stations after the auction; will not necessarily resolve international coordination issues with Mexico and Canada before the auction; and will cap moving costs at $1.75 billion.

Multiple sources said the FCC has decided not to vote on whether to  hold to a 39-month hard date for TV stations to move to new channels after the auction, which it had also proposed.

The FCC is said to be dealing with that separately. One source said they believed the FCC was still having conversations with wireless carriers and broadcasters about a time frame for the move.

While the National Association of Broadcasters wanted the FCC to loosen the 39-month deadline, the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition had argued that the FCC had a waiver process to take care of outliers and the deadline should be preserved.

Noncommercial broadcasters wanted the FCC to reserve a channel in every market for noncoms after the incentive auction repack, but the item is expected to have rejected that request as well—it has not yet been published.

Some commercial broadcasters had wanted the FCC to use a different method to calculate interference to TV stations after the post-auction repack, but the FCC declined, supported by a recent court decision denying a broadcasters challenge to that methodology.

Petitions to reconsider being dealt with elsewhere include channel sharing deals, which the FCC is proposing to allow be struck after the auction, essentially granting a request to reconsider its proposal not to allow it by EOBC, and how much low-band spectrum to reserve for competitive carriers in the forward auction which the FCC is proposing to keep at 30 MHz, rather than the 40 MHz T-Mobile and some public interest groups had sought.

Separately the FCC also this week proposed to respond to reconsideration petitions on its auction pricing and bidding rules by making some tweaks, including dropping the much-maligned dynamic reserve pricing (DRP). Both NAB and EOBC were happy that was going by the wayside.

The FCC also this week released its ground rules for allowing unlicensed devices in the white spaces between TV channels.

The flurry of activity comes as the FCC tries to meet a self-imposed early 2016 time frame for the auction.

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.