The FCC moved closer to setting the schedule for next year’s incentive auction with the release of an order last Friday that addresses various petitions for reconsideration of decisions made by the FCC in last year’s Incentive Auction Report and Order (R&O). Approved unanimously by the FCC’s five commissioners, but with a partial dissent by Commissioner Ajit Pai, the reconsideration order, in the words of the FCC, “largely [affirms] our decisions in the Incentive Auction R&O, although we make certain clarifications and modifications in response to issues raised by the petitioners.” Thirty-one parties requested review of various aspects of the R&O that include, among others, the 600 MHz band plan, channel repacking of TV stations that opt to remain on the air, unlicensed operations in the 600 MHz band, and the 39- month post-auction transition period.
On the subject of the 600 MHz band plan, the FCC upheld its decisions to set a duplex gap of 11 MHz and establish guard bands of between 7 MHz and 11 MHz. With respect to repacking, the FCC also denied petitions requesting the completion of cross-border coordination as a precondition to repacking, explaining, “we expect to reach timely agreements with Canada and Mexico that will enable us to carry out the repacking process in an efficient manner.” In the event such coordination is not completed in a timely fashion, the FCC said it was “not persuaded that stations in border areas are at risk of going dark.” The agency further emphasized that any border station unable to complete construction on its new channel by the end of the prescribed construction period “may request authorization to operate on temporary facilities as provided in the [R&O].”
Pointing to legal challenges against usage of the TVStudy software that the D.C. Circuit resolved last week in the FCC’s favor, the FCC declined to address petitions on that issue but nevertheless agreed to “modify two input values for applying the OET-69 methodology in order to address issues raised in the record.” In response to a petition filed by the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, the FCC also revised TVStudy vertical antenna pattern inputs for Class A stations “to reflect the same values we use when evaluating Class A license applications.” The FCC further maintained that it “will make all reasonable efforts to preserve the coverage areas of stations operating pursuant to waivers of [height above average terrain] or [effective radiated power], provided such facilities are otherwise entitled to protection.”
Despite disagreeing on how some petitions were resolved, Commissioner Ajit Pai stated: “I do agree with how we dispose the overwhelming majority of them.” As he endorsed how Friday’s order “makes clear that the Commission will make every reasonable effort to accommodate requests for television stations to operate on temporary facilities,” Pai said, “I am glad we now commit to providing forward auction bidders with enough information about our international coordination efforts prior to the start of the auction that they can formulate their bidding strategies.”