Petitions to Reconsider Incentive Auction Rules Due Sept. 15

WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum incentive auction rules will become official Oct. 14, according to publication in the Federal Register, which also triggers the deadline for official challenges like the one filed Monday by the National Association of Broadcasters.

The rules, released by the FCC June 2, will govern the process by which next year’s auction of television spectrum is carried out. Petitions for reconsideration will be due Sept. 15, 2014, according to Wiley On Media.

“It is a near certainty that some parties will petition for reconsideration—the question is how many and what effect it will have on the FCC’s timeline for the incentive auction,” wrote Ari Meltzer on the Wiley Rein blog.

The National Association of Broadcasters filed theirs Aug. 18, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. to enjoin a portion of the rules that outlines the methodology for post-auction channel repacking.

The rules as they stand clear a portion of the TV spectrum band, comprising around 300 MHz between 54 and 698 MHz. Other occupants of the band include radio astronomy, FM radio, aeronautical navigation and a variety of fixed and mobile satellite services. In its 2010 National Broadband Plan, the commission proposed reassigning 120 MHz, or around 40 percent, of the TV spectrum for wireless broadband.

The nature of the auction makes the final sum of surrendered spectrum speculative, however, because broadcasters are under no obligation to give up their licensed spectrum. Participation is voluntary. The incentive auction framework was created to give broadcasters who voluntarily relinquish spectrum a cut of the proceeds. It’s not yet known how many stations are interested in the deal. A group of those that are, led by former ABC president, Preston Padden, comprises 80 Class and full-power TV stations, Padden said in an Aug. 14 ex parte filing with the FCC.

The filing described a meeting among several FCC officials and members of Padden’s group, the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition in which the latter stressed transparency during the auction process.

The incentive auction is set up as a two-phase process, in which individual TV station values are determined in a reverse auction and offered in a forward auction if the licensee accepts the price. The process will be carried out for multiple rounds.

Stations that give up all or part of their 6 MHz channel assignment may elect to go off the air, share a channel with another licensee, or move to a new VHF assignment. Broadcasters are granted anonymity in the process.

Padden’s group wants the FCC to disclose its reserve prices for auction-eligible stations right away, and data about bid amounts, number of participating stations, and how much spectrum remains in play between rounds.