FCC's Wheeler: Incentive Auction Will Be Mid-2015

RELATED: Washington Weighs in On Auction Move

The FCC is moving the broadcast incentive auction to mid-2015 to make sure it gets both the policy and technology right.

In a blog posting Friday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signaled that having done a deep dive into the incentive auctions, and given the complexity of the process and its unprecedented nature, he had come up with a new timetable for the auction that reflected that difficulty.

"I believe we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.  To achieve that goal, there will be a number of important milestones along the way.  The Task Force will provide more details about the timeline and milestones in a presentation at the January 2014 Commission meeting," Wheeler said.

The auction will now be targeted for mid-2015. Look for a framework by spring of next year and detailed rules after that, and after public input on the process.

"This plan includes presenting policy recommendations in a proposed Report and Order for the Commission’s consideration early next year.  The Commission would then vote on the R&O in the spring," he said. "Concurrent with determining the rules of the road for the auction, another important aspect of the project plan will include developing the actual procedures for how the auction will be conducted.  In the second half of next year the Task Force plans to release an Auction Comment Public Notice and a Procedures Public Notice that will provide additional details and seek comment on how the specific parts of the auction will actually function."

The FCC will do plenty of "exhaustive" testing of the software and systems responsible for coordinating a first-ever forward and reverse auction in real time, including public demonstrations and tests in real-world situations, including a mock auction.

Wheeler wants to make sure the FCC gets the policy and the technology right and that will take a few more months than the timetable of his predecessors. "Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction," he said. 

That time will also be spent collecting feedback and policy recommendations.

Wheeler signaled earlier in the week that he would not rush the auction, and no vote had been scheduled for the December meeting. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/no-auction-framework-fc...)

The initial plan had been a framework item by the end of the year, and the auction by the end of 2014. The National Association of Broadcasters has been arguing that there should be no rush, saying it was better to do it right than do it fast, a sentiment Wheeler clearly shares.

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.