Advanced Television

FCC postpones spectrum auction

October 27, 2014

By Colin Mann

The FCC’s plan to auction off 600 MHz spectrum licences returned by broadcasters has been deferred until at least 2016, following what the Commission describes as a recalibration of its proposed timing. It was seeking to hold the auction in mid-2015.

In a blog post, Gary Epstein, chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, suggested that now was a good time to take stock and carefully to consider and recalibrate its proposed timing for the commencement of the incentive auction.

He admitted there were “undeniable impediments” to its efforts to implement a successful auction. “As Chairman Wheeler indicated several weeks ago, the court challenges to the auction rules by some broadcasters have introduced uncertainty,” he advised.

“Earlier this week, the court issued a briefing schedule in which the final briefs are not due until late January 2015. Oral arguments will follow at a later date yet to be determined, with a decision not likely until mid-2015. We are confident we will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, we now anticipate accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016. Despite this brief delay, we remain focused on the path to successfully implementing the incentive auction,” he asserted.

In a Statement, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton advised that as the trade body has said repeatedly, it is more important to get the auction done right than right now.

“Given its complexity, there is good reason Congress gave the FCC 10 years to complete the proceeding. We reject suggestions that our narrowly focused lawsuit is cause for delay. We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American.”

NAB on August 18 filed a petition for review with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging certain elements of the Federal Communications Commission’s May 2014 broadcast spectrum incentive auction order.

Specifically, the NAB challenged, among other things, the FCC decision to change the methodology used to predict local television coverage areas and population served, which could result in significant loss of viewership of broadcast TV stations after the FCC ‘repacks’ TV stations into a shrunken TV band.

“Under this new methodology, many broadcast licensees, including NAB’s members, will lose coverage area and population served during the auction’s repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participated in the auction (and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights),” the NAB lawsuit stated.

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