The FCC’s stated goal for some time has been to conduct the broadcast incentive auction in 2016 – buying the spectrum used by a number of TV stations, repackaging it and selling it to wireless companies for wireless broadband purposes. This will happen in a very complicated process where there will be two simultaneous auctions, one for TV stations bidding to surrender their channels, and a second for wireless companies looking to buy that spectrum. Only if there are sufficient bidders on both sides – enough TV stations willing to give up their spectrum to entice the wireless companies to bid, and enough wireless companies willing to bid enough to cover the costs of buying out the TV stations needed to clear the spectrum and paying the costs of many of the remaining stations to change their channels so as to clear a uniform block of spectrum nationwide – will the process be a success. The FCC adopted the general framework for the auction last year. Last month, the Court of Appeals rejected certain appeals of that Order, and the next week, the FCC denied other petitions for reconsideration of that Order – setting the stage for the auction to go forward. The FCC will, at its meeting next week, consider more detailed procedures setting out how the auction will be conducted – all looking to the auction really taking place on schedule in early 2016, with certain required filings this year (including the one due on July 9, about which we wrote here).
The FCC last month also issued orders on Channel Sharing between TV stations (where two stations can combine operations on the same 6 MHz television channel, retaining their cable carriage rights, but enabling them to sell one channel in the auction) and on setting aside a television channel in each market after the auction for unlicensed wireless uses. We will separately write about those two items – but today let’s look at the rejection of the appellate challenges to the auction framework itself, and the impact that these decisions have on broadcasters’ plans going forward.
Continue Reading Incentive Auction Moves Forward – Denial of Court Appeal Clears the Way for the Auction, With Procedures to be Clarified at Next Week’s FCC Meeting