It looks like the dates for the FCC incentive auction (where some broadcasters will sell their spectrum to the FCC to be repackaged and resold to wireless companies for wireless broadband purposes) are becoming clear.  After this week’s delay of the consideration of the incentive auction items (see our article here), the drafts of the FCC orders that were not considered at yesterday’s meeting have now appeared on the list that the FCC maintains of items that are circulating among the Commissioners for consideration.  The list includes the following entry with a March 29 auction start date (the June 25 date being the date that the item was first circulated to the Commissioners, “WTB” referring to the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau that wrote the order) :

06/25/2015 WTB Broadcast Incentive Auction to Begin March 29, 2016; Procedures for Competitive Bidding in Auction 1000, Including Initial Clearing Target Determination, Qualifying to Bid, and Bidding in Auctions 1001 (Reverse) and 1002 (Forward)

So, for the first time, we have a date attached to the start of the incentive auction. If the incentive auction does in fact go forward as set out in this document in March of next year, the preliminary filings by broadcasters and wireless companies expressing intent to participate in the auction could be due late this year or very early next year, though obviously we don’t know those dates yet.

One cautionary note, this notice with the March 29 date refers merely to an item being circulated – it could be voted down or modified before it becomes final.  This date, as well as detailed procedures for the auction, will become more definitive after the FCC meeting on August 6.  But this notice certainly gives us a look at where the FCC is heading in their incentive auction planning. A deadline focuses the mind – and this date, even if preliminary, should focus all TV broadcasters on their plans for the incentive auction.

Jonathan Cohen of my office and I will be doing a webinar for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, which will be made available through several other state broadcast associations, in August (it was to be on August 4 but will likely be postponed until after the FCC’s August meeting).  Contact your state association for information as to whether or not they will be participating in the webinar and for registration information.