Spectrum Auction Now FCC's Second Largest

The bid totals in stage four of the forward portion of the FCC's spectrum auction continued to rise Thursday, from $19,121,911,442 in round 27, to $19,157,904,455 in round 28, to $19,194,000,446 in round 29, pushing past the 2008 700 MHz spectrum auction into second place of all time.

The AWS-3 wireless auction remains the undisputed leader at $40 billion-plus.

Broadcasters won't be getting any of the excess cash beyond their $10 billion payout, but the Treasury will, after the FCC deducts $1.9 billion for auction expenses and a transition fund for broadcasters repacking into smaller spectrum space after the auction.

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The auction has already met its two key clearing targets and broadcasters already know how much they are getting: About $10 billion, so the auction will end at the end of the current forward auction stage. The difference between that $10 billion payout, plus $1.9 billion for auction expenses and TV station post-auction relocation, will go to the treasury.

The auction can't close until there is no more bidding in any of the 416 markets, which is not yet the case. Round 29 saw continued action in a number of smaller markets including Harrisburg, Va.; Ardmore, Okla.; and Pendleton, Ore.

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The forward auction is a clock auction in which the FCC raises the price in each round until demand does not exceed supply in each round.

As of Feb. 1, the FCC bumped up its per-round price increase from 5% over the previous price to 10%.

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.