Senate Takes Up Incentive Auction

WASHINGTON — The nation’s most complicated spectrum auction is expected to go down six months from now, and lawmakers, stakeholders and others are weighing in on loose ends. The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, Dec. 10, to “examine the issues surrounding the implementation of the voluntary incentive auction of broadcast television spectrum.” Many of those issues are a matter of record with the Federal Communications Commission, which has compiled 882 filings on the incentive auction docket, opened Nov. 29, 2012.

“I am an audio professional who uses wireless microphone systems to provide sound for our local Berkshire County theatres, colleges, festivals and many other events,” Donald Harris wrote to the FCC. Harris is owner of Day Mountain Sound in Dalton, Mass. Wireless mic users in Chs. 52-69 were displaced by the 2009 digital transition, which freed 118 MHz of TV spectrum for telecoms.

“I am outraged, after having to replace my entire 700 MHz wireless microphone inventory of $15,000, I may potentially have to do it again. This was all at my own expense. A small business such as mine cannot take these unexpected and unfair financial setbacks. My new 600 MHz mics have at least six to nine years of life expectancy left. If I had been warned that the 600 MHz band was going to be auctioned off in 2014, I would have never purchased them. I would have purchased only mics in the 500 MHz band.”

Harris said he supports Sennheiser’s Nov. 4 proposal to reimburse wireless mic users who are displaced by the incentive auction, and asked the commission to respond to it.

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition is pushing for auction participation for low-power TV licensees, who are now cut out of the action, and not guaranteed a spot in the spectrum following the post-auction repack. Mike Gravino , director of the coalition, met with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly last week. O’Reilly was sworn in Nov. 4. Gravino said he stressed the importance of LPTV participation in both the auction and the repack.

AT&T also continues to defend its agenda. Both AT&T and Verizon are fighting proposals that their participation be limited so that smaller carriers have a chance to win licenses. The counter-argument is that these two biggest carriers in the United States bring the biggest buckets of money to the table, the whole raison d'être behind the auctions.

AT&T’s vice president of Federal Regulatory, Joan Marsh, registered the carrier’s objection to a proposal from the Competitive Carriers Association to sell spectrum licenses in smaller geographic parcels. The CCA suggested spectrum be divided according to “Partial Economic Areas” rather than Economic Areas, as per the FCC’s original proposal to facilitate bidding by smaller and rural carriers. AT&T prefers the larger EAs, as well as “package bidding” that combines EAs.

“If a carrier had licenses for Bands A and B in some cities, Bands C and D in other cities, and Bands E and F in yet other cities, its customers could not make use of all those bands when they travel unless the carrier installs an inefficiently large number of handset components designed to process signals on all of those bands. Instead, the carrier would much prefer to have licenses simply for the same two bands in all, or at least most, of its geographic markets.”

November 20, 2013:
NAB2FCC: Don’t Redesignate Full TV Band
The broadcast lobby sent an Away Team to the Portals this week to urge regulators to resist the urge to open the entire broadcast TV band up for mobile wireless operations.

November 14, 2013:List of TV Station Repacking Concerns/Costs Continues to Grow
Sennheiser Electronic Corp. and CP Communications--pointed to the costs wireless microphone users would encounter in moving out of the 600 MHz spectrum that would be auctioned to wireless carriers.

November 5, 2013:EOCA, CEA Want No Limits on TV Spectrum Bids
Restricting who can bid on TV stations selling spectrum could result in reduced FCC revenues and even a failed auction process. That’s the warning from the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition and the Consumer Electronics Association.

October 24, 2013:Government Shutdown Impacts FCC Auctions, Deadlines and Workshops
The FCC was up and running after the federal government shutdown ended last week, but some FCC activities have been rescheduled.

September 23, 2013:Wireless Mic Users Unite
What they fear is the loss of white space spectrum—unoccupied TV channels— used by wireless mics, along with the 12 MHz of bandwidth now reserved for wireless mics in each media market in the United States.

June 6, 2013:$370 Million in TV Deals Done for Spectrum Auction Tender
Around $370 million worth of TV stations have traded hands with the express purpose of offering them up in the incentive auction, Wells Fargo analysts report. In round numbers, at least 70 TV stations are going on the block through the group led by former Disney lobbyist Preston Padden, who described them as “heavily weighted toward the largest markets.”

September 28, 2012:FCC Unanimously Approves TV Band Incentive Auction NPRM
The NPRM sets forth a three-part process for the auctions: An initial reverse auction by which TV stations submit a price they’ll accept to relinquish spectrum; a repacking of the remaining TV stations; and a forward auction of freed-up spectrum licenses.

April 11, 2012, “NAB Asks FCC to Delay Spectrum Redesignation
“Giving co-primary priority to wireless services across the entire broadcast band is unprecedented on both a national and international level.”