FCC task force presentation lays out incentive auction progress

The FCC Incentive Auction Task Force presented an update June 27 on the agency’s progress in laying the foundation for a successful incentive auction and TV spectrum repacking.

The presentation summarized the FCC’s wide-ranging efforts setting the stage for the auction and repack, including the public interest objectives of the spectrum overhaul, the planning and preparation that happened prior to passage of the Spectrum Act and the agency’s release of its incentive auction Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, key milestones, and the public notice on new TV Study software and engagement with the public at conferences, workshops and other venues.

It also reviewed various band plans and proposals and the agency’s public notice seeking comment on the best approach to accommodate market variation — the concept of varying the amount of spectrum cleared by market and thus avoiding what the task force calls the “least common denominator effect.”

The task force presentation pointed out that the FCC has retained Widelity, a Fairfax, VA, -based communications network professional services company, to review the costs of replacement equipment resulting from the repack, equipment sourcing and logistical challenges, such as the limited number of tower crews.

The task force also identified the next steps needed to pull off the auction and repack, including developments in repacking, advancements in international coordination and ways to encourage channel sharing. The presentation pointed out that the FCC will release data files and details of an approach to determine permissible channel assignments in the repacking process as well as additional data to make possible independent analysis.

The presentation said the FCC will continue to encourage broadcasters to participate in channel sharing and take steps to facilitate channel-sharing pilot projects.

Following the presentation, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the auction and repacking process must remain transparent and called for public hearings to be held on the auction to explore major aspects of the auction. She also called for the task force to reach out to each TV broadcaster in the top 30 markets “where our mobile broadband needs are greatest.”

Preston Padden, executive director of Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, an industry group representing some broadcasters interested in participating in the auction, released a statement following the presentation thanking the FCC staff for “resisting the idea of a ‘lowest-common-denominator” uniform national band plan.

“A variable plan, perhaps by regions, can maximize the amount of spectrum reallocated and maximize auction revenues without creating harmful interference,” Padden said in the statement.