As the leaders of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force said in opening a post on the FCC’s blog last week, “Who says nothing happens in Washington in August?” Bidding in the initial stage of the FCC Incentive Auction’s forward auction phase begins on Tuesday, August 16th, and with it, the longest pre-auction run-up period in FCC history is finally over!
As noted previously on this page, most analysts do not expect the forward auction to generate enough revenue in this stage to close the Incentive Auction at the current 126 MHz spectrum clearing target. (It would take over $88 billion, including funding reimbursements to TV stations that have to change channels after the auction.) No one knows for sure, however, and the bidders themselves are subject to the gag order imposed by the FCC’s anti-collusion rules, so they can’t talk. But unlike in the reverse auction, where the FCC provided virtually no bidding information to the public, the agency has set up an online Public Reporting System (the “PRS,” accessible at https://auctiondata.fcc.gov/public/projects/1000), which will provide information on the progress of the forward auction after the end of each bidding round.
In particular, the PRS “Dashboard” page will provide information regarding the progress of the forward auction toward meeting the so-called “final stage rule,” and the “Product Status Stage 1” page will show, for each category of license in each market in the just-completed round, the aggregate demand and the supply, the price at the end of the last completed round, and the price for the next round, among other things. This will give us the ability, at least in general terms, to tell how the auction is going. Nothing like an FCC auction to inject some excitement into the dog days of August!