repurposing of TV spectrum for broadband

With the FCC last week announcing the results of the reverse auction portion of the incentive auction and setting the timetable for the repacking of the TV spectrum, the next question on everyone’s mind will be how successful the television industry will be in adhering to the schedule established by the FCC for clearing

The FCC last week announced that Stage 3 of the reverse auction portion of the FCC Incentive Auction is now complete, and the amount necessary to be paid to TV stations to vacate the required spectrum in this stage is $40,313,164,425.  This represents a drop from the $54,586,032,836 clearing cost that resulted from Stage

The Incentive Auction, by which the FCC is to pay TV stations to surrender their spectrum and then resell that spectrum to wireless carriers, is to begin on March 29, 2016 (see our article here which broke that news). At the end of last month, my law partner Jonathan Cohen and I presented a webinar to members of 11 state broadcast associations on the auction process, as clarified by the FCC last month in its Incentive Auction Bidding Procedures Public Notice (here). The slides from our state association presentation are available here. These slides set out the background of the proceeding, the process that broadcasters will go through to participate in the auction, an outline of the issues that come up in channel sharing agreements, the post-auction repacking of the TV spectrum into the fewer channels that will remain dedicated to TV use, and the deadlines for stations to either end their service or implement any facility changes ordered as part of the repacking.

Even more light was shed on the process yesterday, in remarks made by FCC Chair Tom Wheeler at the CTIA convention in Las Vegas. In his remarks, he reiterated the intention of the FCC to begin the auction next March. He also indicated that more specific advice about auction procedures would be coming by a subsequent FCC Applications Procedures public notice in October. Chairman Wheeler said that broadcasters will be indicating their intent to participate in the auction around Thanksgiving (by filing initial auction applications), and wireless companies will be filing their initial applications around the first of the year indicating their intent to participate in the second phase of the auction to buy up the spectrum surrendered by broadcasters. Note that these dates are all very general, so you’ll need to watch as specific guidance is provided by the FCC. Given that the FCC has said that broadcasters will be given 60 days of advance notice of the amount that they will be offered to surrender their spectrum before being required to file their initial application, if the Applications Procedures public notice is the document where the opening bids are provided, the Thanksgiving date, for instance, may well actually be sometime in December.
Continue Reading TV Incentive Auction Timing and Procedures Become Clearer – A Presentation on the Process, and More on Upcoming Important Dates

The FCC continues to take its show on the road, announcing incentive auction seminars for TV broadcasters in several new cities. At these seminars, FCC officials meet with TV broadcasters in a general meeting to outline the mechanics of the proposed incentive auction to reclaim a portion of the TV band to be resold to wireless users for wireless broadband purposes, and the subsequent “repacking” when remaining TV stations will be assigned channels on which to operate in a smaller TV band. The new seminars are to be held at the following locations:

March 30, 2015: Cincinnati, OH

March 31, 2015: Columbus, OH

April 1, 2015: Cleveland, OH

April 7, 2015: Louisville, KY

April 8, 2015: Indianapolis, IN

April 14, 2015: Las Vegas, NV (in conjunction with the NAB Show)

TV broadcasters should contact the FCC to make reservations to attend. At the same time, broadcasters can schedule a private meeting with the FCC officials to talk about the likely opening bids to be offered to stations to surrender their frequencies and other details specific to the situation faced by their stations.
Continue Reading FCC Announces New Locations for TV Incentive Auction Seminars and Private Meetings

As we accelerate toward next year’s planned TV incentive auction, it seems like there is news almost every day of interest to television broadcasters who may be affected by the FCC’s efforts to clear TV spectrum so that it can be repurposed for wireless broadband use and sold to wireless companies and the subsequent repacking of remaining TV stations into a smaller TV band. Some of the broadcasters most directly affected by the auction and repacking will be LPTV stations who, thus far, have been promised no compensation should their operations be displaced by the repacking of the TV band, and offered no promises that they will have channels on which they can operate after the auction. The issues for LPTV stations, and the FCC’s proposals to deal with them, were to be addressed at a webinar on Tuesday, but the session was cancelled when the Federal government shut down because of snow in the DC area. The FCC yesterday announced that the webinar has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, February 24 – details in the Public Notice here. We wrote about the FCC’s rulemaking looking at what to do with LPTV stations after the auction here.

One of the big questions that many broadcasters have asked since the FCC rolled out the recent Greenhill Report (see our article here), setting out expected opening prices that will be offered to TV stations to surrender their TV channel, was how many stations could actually expect to be bought out in any market. The NAB released a study yesterday, suggesting that in some markets, it is very likely that the FCC will not need to buy out any stations, whether the auction tries to clear 120 MHz (20 TV channels, the maximum that the FCC has looked at clearing) or only 84 MHz (which some have thought was a more realistic goal). On the other hand, in several large markets and in markets in congested spectrum areas near some of those large markets, the FCC may need to get more than half of the stations in those markets to give up their licenses. The NAB computations are taken from FCC data, and the NAB provides many disclaimers that this information may change as auction plans change over time as different assumptions are made, and also are very dependent on the number of participants in adjoining markets. But the study is nevertheless one that gives some broadcasters an idea of how likely it is for them to really need to be an auction participant. See the NAB explanation of their procedures here, and the complete market-by-market chart of likely TV clearing needs here.
Continue Reading More Incentive Auction News – LPTV Webinar Postponed; NAB Study Looks At How Many Stations Per Market Will Need to Surrender Licenses for Successful Auction; More Auction Seminars Scheduled

With the recent release of the FCC’s report setting out the potential opening bids to buy out the spectrum of TV stations so that it can be resold to wireless companies for wireless broadband, station owners and operators around the country have many questions about how the auction will play out, and what they really

On Friday, the FCC released a new report by the investment bankers advising them on the incentive auction, Greenhill and Company.  This report summarizes proposed auction procedures, but also sets out, on a market-by-market basis, the expected opening bids to be offered to TV broadcasters for the surrender of their spectrum so that the spectrum can be repurposed for wireless broadband use.  And these numbers are high – seemingly meant to attract broadcasters to consider possible participation in the auction process.  The opening numbers suggested by this report range from a high offer of $870 million in New York City, to a couple of million even in the smallest TV markets. 

While this report, and the table of expected opening offers that is part of that report, are in a format similar very to the Greenhill report that was released several months ago (about which we wrote here), those two reports actually represent two very different numbers.  The report released in the Fall set out prices that stations willing to surrender their frequencies might be expected to actually receive in an incentive auction.  The numbers in this report are merely the opening offers that will be made to stations to surrender their spectrum.  If these numbers attract more broadcasters willing to surrender their spectrum than the FCC needs to meet their spectrum-clearing targets (as they quite well may given the numbers being proposed), then the Commission will lower the offer in subsequent rounds of the auction, and the FCC will continue to lower the bids until they receive willing sellers of just the right amount of spectrum necessary to clear the FCC’s targets (which are yet to be set) for spectrum to be resold to wireless users.
Continue Reading FCC Releases Tentative Amounts for Opening Offers to TV Stations to Surrender their Spectrum in the Incentive Auction – and the Numbers Are High