FCC's Spectrum Auction Will Close March 30

The FCC's broadcast incentive auction will close for good on March 30.

In a public notice Tuesday, the FCC said it will start the assignment-phase auction March 6, 2017. And in this auction, there is a definite end date—March 30.

The clock-phase of the broadcast incentive auction began May 31, 2016, with broadcasters first offering up spectrum at an exit price in the reverse portion and wireless companies bidding for that spectrum in the forward portion. That forward auction clock phase ended Feb. 10, with a bid total of $19.6 billion. Broadcasters' reverse portion ended Jan. 18 after their $10 billion price for 84 MHz was met in round 4 of the forward auction.

The assignment-phase auction is for specific frequencies and is only for winning bidders in the forward auction. Those bidders were only bidding on generic blocks and can now bid on specific frequencies, for instance if they want to harmonize them across multiple markets.

Why three weeks until the follow-up auction, given that the FCC only scheduled a few days between the forward and reverse auctions? It is a different system, so the FCC needs time for practice and mock auctions to get bidders comfortable with that system.

Forward auction winners who want to bid on those specific frequencies (if not they will just be assigned blocks by the FCC), can log on to the FCC's bidding system Feb. 21 to download their options for bidding—based on what blocks they won, where).

There will be a practice auction Feb. 22 and a mock auction Feb. 28.

There is also a user guide and tutorial now available at www.fcc.gov/auctions/1002 to walk assignment-phase participants through the process.

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.