Obama Signs Spectrum Auction Authority Bill
$1.75 billion allocated for repacking
February 23, 2012
TV spectrum can officially go on the auction block. President Obama has signed
the bill authorizing the Federal Communications Commission to hold incentive
auctions to coax broadcasters to give up their piece of the airwaves. The
Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” empowers the
FCC to “encourage a licensee to relinquish voluntarily some or all of
its licensed spectrum usage rights” to make way for wireless
broadband. Broadcasters who do so will get a to-be-determined portion of the
The bill directs
the FCC to hold a reverse auction “to determine the amount of
compensation that each broadcast television licensee would accept in return for
voluntarily relinquishing some or all of its broadcast television spectrum
in this case has three potential meanings--giving up broadcasting; giving up a
UHF channel in return for a VHF reassignment; or vacating a UHF channel to
share a 6 MHz assignment with another station. For those stations that elect
channel-sharing, the bill provides the same carriage rights that now apply to
TV signals. Licensees that participate in reverse auctions will be kept
Repacking is also
covered in the bill, which directs the FCC to evaluate the spectrum made
available through auctions, to coordinate with Mexico and Canada, and to then
repack TV channels into the remaining spectrum. The language in the bill gives
the commission some leeway on repacking with regard to signal replication.
commission shall make all reasonable efforts to preserve, as of the enactment
date of this act, the coverage area and population served of each broadcast
television licensee,” in accordance with the FCC’s
measurement model, the Longley-Rice method.
The bill also
stresses that there be “no involuntary relocation from UHF to
VHF.” A total of $1.75 billion is to be set aside from anticipated
auction proceeds for the channel repacking. Broadcasters who elect to forego
relocation reimbursement can apply for a waiver of commission service rules in
order to use the spectrum for something other than TV, as long as
they’re providing at least “one broadcast television
stream... at no charge to the public.” The commission is directed to
make all reimbursements within three years of the completed forward auction.
Another $2 billion
is designated to built out a first-responder wireless network on TV spectrum
that failed to draw a minimum bid in 2008. The bill allocates spectrum, known
as the D Block, for public safety, thereby taking it off the auction block. Up
to $300 million from anticipated proceeds is tagged for relocating licensees on
Ch. 37, which is designated for radio astronomy. The government expects to end
up with around $15 billion from TV spectrum auctions after the set-asides. The
sum is already calculated into offsetting $30 billion to extend unemployment
benefits, also covered in the bill.
The auction cycle
is to be completed by 2022. If it fails to raise enough money to cover the
set-asides, there will be no license reassignments and no repacking.
The auction scheme
was first set forth two years ago in the National Broadband Plan developed by
the FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski. The plan proposed to reallocate 20
broadcast channels for wireless broadband. The National Association of
Broadcasters estimated that reducing the TV spectrum by 20 channels would knock
210 full-power stations off the air, and require 672 full-power and 3,423 Class
A and low-power broadcasters to relocate. A total of 174 TV stations relocated
during the digital transition, completed in 2009.
comments powered by Disqus.