TV Spectrum Auction Update

Posted on April 30th, 2014 by

The FCC is scheduled to vote on a Report & Order in the 15 month old TV incentive auction at its May meeting.  According to the agenda issued for the meeting, to be held May 15, the Commission will consider adopting, via the Order, “key policies and rules for the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction, laying the groundwork for an unprecedented, market-driven process for repurposing spectrum for mobile broadband use, and promoting competition and innovation.”

A preliminary description of the draft Order being circulated at the FCC has described various aspects of the planned decision, but remains subject to change after circulation among the Commissioners.  We hear that one of the most contentious issues – protection of coverage areas – will boil down to the FCC “doing the best it reasonably can” to replicate broadcast coverage areas, though it will be doing so using the newer (and less generous) OET-69 software for calculating signal coverage.  That sounds like it tees up a legal challenge from broadcasters, but we’ll have to see.

As an FCC Chairman must, Tom Wheeler has expressed numerous views on the auction, some through the FCC’s Blog, but always with utmost confidence that the auction will occur in 2015 and be successful.  In case you’ve wondered about the “macro” spectrum outlook, it is perhaps best expressed in Wheeler’s April 18th FCC Blog post – “getting the Incentive Auction right will revolutionize how spectrum is allocated. By marrying the economics of demand (think wireless providers) with the economics of current spectrum holders (think television broadcasters), the Incentive Auction will allow market forces to determine the highest and best use of spectrum.”

We’ll be watching for the Report & Order along with you.