FCC Releases Bidding Guide for Reverse Auction

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission has released the “Incentive Auction Reverse Auction Bidding System User Guide.” The 67-page document details the process for using its auction software platform, which spit out a clearing target of 126 MHz last week based on how many TV stations will go on the auction block. (See, “FCC Releases 126 MHz Clearing Target.” April 29, 2016.)

According to the Guide, qualifying participants will learn which of their elected relinquishment options the system accepted on May 23, when the auction system opens for preview. One or more of three relinquishment options were selected during the application process, and included going off the air (to go dark or share another channel); moving from a UHF channel to a high VHF, or moving from a high VHF to a lower one.

Participating stations will be presumed sold at the opening price offered at the accepted option when actual bidding begins May 31.

Participants also will be informed of their bidding status during the May 23-24 preview. The auction system will assign each station one of six bidding statuses after each auction round:
— “Bidding” will indicate a channel in the TV band is available for that station.
— “Frozen—provisionally winning” means a station cannot be repacked in the TV band.
— “Frozen—currently infeasible” means a VHF channel may open up in subsequent rounds.
— “Frozen—pending catch-up,” is a “frozen—provisionally winning” station that is no longer provisionally winning.
— “Exited voluntary” for stations that drop out.
— “Unneeded” for those licenses the commission does not need to secure its 126 MHz spectrum clear target.

The reverse auction clock phase will proceed in a series of timed bidding rounds. “In each round, stations with the status of “bidding” will be offered prices for their available relinquishment options,” the Guide states. “Each bidder may choose to bid to accept one of these options (and, if appropriate, a fallback option) or, alternatively, may choose to drop out of bidding.”

After a bidding round closes, the auction system processes the bids and posts the results. Participants will then be able to view their own bidding status, which may change from one round to the next. Round results also will indicate which options remain available at what price to participants, as well as the “vacancy range” of channels remaining available for those options.

The Guide provides a step-by-step walk-through of using the online auction system, including login and navigation information relevant to the mock auction to be held before the real deal on May 31.

The commission’s countdown to this first-ever historic, two-part incentive spectrum auction includes the following (all times Eastern):

— Wednesday, May 18: An online tutorial will be held.
— Monday, May 23, 10 a.m.: Auction platform will be opened for preview through 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 24.
Wednesday, May 25, 10 a.m.: Mock auction will commence and continue through 6 p.m. Thursday, May 26, at several intervals over those two days.
Tuesday, May 31, 10 a.m.: The reverse auction commences.

The “Incentive Auction Reverse Auction Bidding System User Guide” was mailed to qualified participants May 5 and can be downloaded here.