The Federal Communications Commission will start accepting TV
spectrum incentive auction applications in early 2015. That’s according to a
report to the commission by Gary Epstein, chief of its Incentive Auction Task
Force. Epstein provided an update to the full commission during its Jan. 30
He said a Report & Order detailing the structure of the incentive auction
would be issued in the spring. It will be followed by a comment period and a
procedures Public Notice as well as “increased robust outreach and education
“In early 2015, we will begin accepting auction applicants,” he said.
Aside from a Public Notice issued Wednesday seeking feedback on interference
between wireless providers and TV stations, there was little else of substance
in Epstein’s update. He gave a litany of Task Force activities, including that
it had accepted all ex parte
requests and tallied up 400 such meetings. One chief concern for broadcasters
remains unresolved: International signal repacking coordination with Mexico and
“The chairman indicated
in a House hearing last month that he does not expect to have such agreements,”
the wrote Rick Kaplan of the National Association of Broadcasters in the
before the FCC meeting. “Assuming that it is even lawful to proceed with the
auction without these agreements—and NAB believes it is not—how will a lack of
meaningful coordination affect the auction and the amount of spectrum recovered
across the country?”
Epstein said negotiations continued.
Another point Kaplan emphasized was the commission’s proposed changes to
OET-69, the methodology used to calculate interference between TV channels.
OET-69 was incorporated into software developed specifically for repacking TV
channels after the auction. The commission named the software “TVStudy.
“The proposed changes,
as well as literally 12 different versions
[sic] of the TVStudy
software in less than a year have only served to introduce uncertainty into the
process and threaten to slow down the auction process considerably,” he wrote.
Epstein merely said the commission would conduct TVStudy
software demos in advance of the auction to tweak interface
and give participants a chance to get familiar. It also proposed another use
for OET-69: Calculating interference between wireless providers and TV stations
under a variable band plan.
“Accommodating market variation has been a central focus of the incentive auction
discussion,” Epstein said.
This “variation” involves auctioning different amounts of spectrum in
geographic areas of yet-to-be determined size. A Public Notice on geographic
license areas was released last month. Various sizes were suggested, including
counties. These geographic areas will determine how spectrum is packaged for
Allowing a different amount of spectrum to be auctioned in each market would
yield more spectrum for auction, but also more interference complications
because signals would overlap in adjacent markets. Epstein said the Task Force
has formed an internal working group to examine potential approaches to preventing
“Some have suggested a simple distance separation, but that’s not sufficient,” he
The commission is instead proposing in the Jan. 29 Public Notice to tailor the
foundation of OET-69—the Longley-Rice method of calculating TV signal
behavior—to predict potential interference under a variable band plan. (See “FCC
Probes TV-Cell Interference Under Variable Band Plan for details.
Kaplan said the interference implications of such a plan are
The NAB, along with AT&T,
Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Qualcomm and Intel formally endorsed a contiguous
band plan. However, the FCC, under pressure from Congress to bring in nearly
$30 billion with the auction, is opting for its own proposal.
It will hold a workshop and webinar on the proposal Feb. 21.