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Incentive Auction Watchers, Participants, Weigh In on FCC Data Dump

Interested parties were celebrating the FCC's release of a raft of data on who won what in the recent broadcast incentive auction, as well as next steps and timelines for repacking TV stations after the auction.

"NAB congratulates the Commission and its staff on bringing the TV auction to a successful conclusion," said NAB President Gordon Smith. "While today marks a major milestone, the work is far from over. Now the FCC and the broadcast industry face the unprecedented task of moving almost a thousand TV stations -- far more than originally anticipated — to new channels in very tight time frames."

FCC execs were suggesting it was actually a smaller number — than the 1,300 they suggested was one estimate.

Related: NBC Sells Spectrum of WNBC, WSNS, WWSI

"NAB also remains concerned about the impact of the auction on hundreds of radio stations co-located on television towers," said Smith. "We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to develop a balanced approach to repacking that is fair to all stakeholders, most importantly our tens of millions of TV viewers and radio listeners."

On the other side of the auction, colorful T-Mobile President John Legere was also celebrating — T-Mobile was the biggest forward auction bidder at just about $8 billion.

"T-Mobile now has the largest swath of unused low-band spectrum in the country," said Legere in a video blog on the auction. "That is a BFD for our customers! Because T-Mobile customers will be able to speed on a brand-new, wide-open wireless freeway, while carrier customers have to crawl along on their clogged, congested low-band freeways."

"These auction results are a win for everyone, especially consumers, and generated BILLIONS [emphasis his] for broadcasters and U.S. taxpayers," he said. "Congratulations to the FCC! This spectrum sets us up to bring the Un-carrier — and REAL competition — to wireless customers everywhere, many of whom have never had real choices in wireless. If the Duopoly thought things were rough before — well, just wait!"

The Competitive Carriers Association called it an important day for the wireless industry.

"The FCC and Congress should be commended for facilitating this first-of-its-kind auction and ensuring that competitive carriers were able to acquire additional spectrum to serve rural and remote areas of the United States," said CCA President Steven K. Berry. "Valuable 600 MHz spectrum will allow competitive carriers to satisfy consumers’ increasing demands for ubiquitous mobile service, and will benefit competition throughout the marketplace. Also important, over $7 billion will be allocated to the U.S. Treasury to reduce the federal deficit — a win for the economy and American taxpayer[s] alike.”

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association congratulated the smaller players who got spectrum in the auction, including more than two dozen who used a rural bidding credit — the FCC provided credits and set-asides to try and make sure that the spectrum got spread around a bit.

"This showing demonstrates the commitment that rural telecommunications providers have to provide state-of-the-art communications services for the benefit of the communities they serve, and highlights the benefits of the FCC’s decision to establish a rural bidding credit for this auction so that those most interested in finding innovative solutions to serve rural markets have at least a better opportunity to do so," said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield in a statement. "We congratulate all of today's winners, including many NTCA members, and look forward to continuing to work with the commission to bring more advanced communications options to rural communities."

Tech policy think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) emphasized the need for the FCC to get moving and clear broadcasters off the spectrum ASAP. "The FCC and other stakeholders must work together to ensure hasty deployment of this spectrum so that consumers and the entire economy can reap the benefits as quickly as possible," said ITIF. "The benefits to broadband users and the economy flow not just from spectrum being transferred, but its actual use—equipment must be built out and turned on. Before this can happen, affected broadcasting services must be re-organized to fit within remaining spectrum.

"This 'repacking' — overseen by the FCC — will be a complicated, coordinated process achieved over several phases to minimize disruption to broadcasters, but the sooner it moves forward the better. The faster the repacking process takes place, clearing this fresh spectrum to be put into service, the sooner we see the true benefits of this historic auction."

“We’ve long maintained that the incentive auction presented a rare chance for a spectrum policy win-win-win," said Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge, "necessary spectrum is freed up to meet demand for mobile broadband, more spectrum is made available for unlicensed use, and those interested in giving up their spectrum are compensated for their trouble.

“It is encouraging to see that competitive carriers and potential new entrants secured the majority of the spectrum auctioned. Low-band spectrum is critically important to competition in the wireless industry, and the incentive auction seems, at first look, to have expanded ownership of low-band spectrum beyond those few carriers with dominant low-band holdings. The Commission’s auction rules that encouraged widespread participation in the forward auction and promoted competition appear to have been successful."

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.