Following on the recent adoption of the FCC’s incentive auction procedures notice, the chairman and vice chairman of the FCC Incentive Auction Task Force provided additional details on various events and procedures leading up to the planned incentive auction of broadcast TV spectrum. Task force chairman Gary Esptein joined task force vice chairman Howard Symons in a blog post last Thursday affirming the FCC’s intention to issue an application procedures notice this fall. That document “will describe the nuts and bolts of the auction application process and post-auction procedures, including the opening dates for the application filing windows, the filing deadline, the schedule for mock auctions and the information required on the auction application forms.”
While specific dates were not revealed, Esptein and Symons said filing windows for applicants in the broadcast “reverse” and wireless “forward” auctions will close by the end of this year. No later than the auction start date of March 29, 2016, participating broadcasters will be required to announce preferred initial bid options that will obligate each broadcaster “to [relinquish] its spectrum usage rights at the opening price applicable to its preferred option.” If, during the auction, bid prices drop below the preferred level designated by a particular broadcaster, Esptein and Symons stressed that the affected broadcaster will “no longer bound to relinquish the spectrum unless it elects to remain in the auction at the lower price.”
Once initial opening bid commitments are received by the FCC, Esptein and Symons explained that the auction system “will determine the initial clearing target and associated band plan.” Reverse auction bidders will be given the opportunity to participate in mock auctions, soon after which “reverse auction bidding rounds will begin.”
With respect to the forward auction, Epstein and Symons stated that the FCC will release the final table of bidding units for each partial economic area (PEA) this fall to enable forward auction participants to plan their upfront payments. Prospective forward auction bidders will then be required to submit upfront payments after the establishment of the initial clearing target and band plan. Esptein and Symons said forward auction bidders “will also have an opportunity to participate in a mock auction,” adding that the first forward auction round will begin “no sooner than 15 business days after we release the list of qualified forward auction bidders.”
To prepare prospective bidders for this first-of-a-kind auction process, Esptein and Symons specified that FCC staff members will conduct workshops, webinars and “an interactive on-line tutorial” before application filing windows are opened. As wireless association CTIA applauded the FCC’s “release of an updated roadmap on next steps in the development of the 600 MHz incentive auction,” National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president Dennis Wharton advised FCC officials to “not lose sight of the important changes still necessary to ensure a successful auction,” reiterating that his group “still has serious reservations about some critical decisions” outlined in the August 6 auction procedures notice.