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.