Yesterday, the FCC released a Public Notice setting out the agenda for the May 24 Workshop to explain the process of bidding in the reverse auction. The reverse auction is of course when broadcasters can bid to surrender their current channel to the FCC so that the FCC can repackage the surrendered spectrum and then sell it in the “Forward Auction” to wireless companies who plan to use it for wireless broadband and other uses (and the bidding among TV stations for the right to vacate their spectrum in exchange for compensation from the FCC begins May 31, see our post here). The May 24 Workshop to be held at the FCC’s offices in Washington will also be streamed live on the Internet and archived for future viewing. The workshop, to be held from 10 AM to 1 PM Eastern, will cover the process for bidding and will review the bidding software itself. Given the importance of getting it right in the auction process, as stations have their very existence at stake, it would seem that every auction participant will want to watch the Workshop.
The FCC also uses the Public Notice to remind broadcasters to look at the Online Tutorial on the bidding software which will be available online before the Workshop – so that the broadcaster will be generally familiar with the software before the Workshop begins. It also reminds broadcasters to take advantage of the auction system’s “preview period” from 10 AM on May 23 until 6 PM on May 24. During that preview period, qualified reverse auction bidders will get to see what the FCC will be offering them during the initial bidding rounds of the auction – providing the list of stations for which the authorized bidder may make bids in the “clock phase” once the auction starts on May 31; each station’s bidding status (e.g., whether it has been “frozen” meaning that the FCC has determined that in this auction stage it will need to clear the station in order to meet the spectrum clearing target and thus the bidder’s offer to sell its spectrum has been accepted, subject only to the success of the Forward Auction, or whether the station is no longer needed at all, or whether the bidder needs to keep bidding in subsequent rounds of the auction as the price falls, if the FCC has not yet determined that the station’s spectrum will be needed); the initial relinquishment option assigned to the station (e.g., whether the station is willing to go off the air or merely wants to change to a VHF channel); and, where applicable, the available bid options with associated vacancy ranges and next round clock price offers (e.g., if the station has not been frozen or determined to be unnecessary, the specific financial options that the FCC is offering to that bidder for each of its participating stations). Clearly, this information will be of crucial importance to every reverse auction participant in deciding what they will do when the bidding starts on May 31.
Finally, the FCC reminds broadcasters that the Mock Auction, where they can take the auction software for a test ride to make sure that they know what they are doing without any potential adverse consequences, will occur on May 25 and May 26 – individual stations should have been notified which Mock Auction they are eligible for in the Final Confidential Status letters that the FCC mailed to auction participants last week. The auction is a reality. If you are participating, take advantage of these educational opportunities so that you can be ready for the important decisions ahead.