FCC's Wheeler: Spectrum Auction on Track for March 29

Despite a host of legal challenges from low-power TV stations, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler plans to tell a Senate Commerce Committee hearing audience Wednesday that "all systems are go to launch this historic auction in 26 days [March 29]." He also said the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force will get new marching orders post-auction.

That is according to prepared testimony for the committee's FCC oversight hearing.

Wheeler also said, as he has before, that he is "encouraged by the strong interest that we have seen both from broadcasters interested in selling their spectrum and the broad assortment of parties interested in buying it."

The FCC has not released any information about that broadcaster participation, including aggregate totals even one of his fellow Democratic commissioners has argued might be a good idea.

But he made no bones about what the prime directive in the auction is. "Our key goal is to repurpose as much spectrum for mobile broadband as the market demands to meet growing consumer needs, and that means deploying networks using these frequencies in a timely manner," he said.

Wheeler said the FCC is already "pivoting" toward the post-auction repack of stations, which he acknowledged was as important as getting the auction right.

He said the FCC's auction task force will remain in place after the auction, transitioning to a repack task force. "The task force approach has served us well in designing and implementing the auction, and I believe it is the appropriate structure for ensuring that the transition has the focus and attention it requires," he said.

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.