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Global Media and Communications Watch The International Legal Blog for the Tech, Media and Telecoms Industry
Posted in Broadcasting, Policy & Regulation, Spectrum, Telecoms & Broadband Trey Hanbury

FCC Delays Incentive Auction To Mid-2015

The US Federal Communications Commission has postponed the auction of 600 MHz broadband spectrum currently occupied by the nation’s over-the-air television operators until mid-2015.

In a blog posted on the Federal Communications Commission’s website on December 6, 2013, Chairman Wheeler announced the delay and a more detailed schedule that sets tentative milestones for activities leading up to the auction.   The blog is short on specifics, but here are the key milestones Wheeler describes by date:

  • January 2014 – the FCC staff intends to announce a more detailed incentive auction schedule at the Commission meeting currently slated for January 30, 2014.
  • “Early 2014” – the Chairman intends to circulate a proposed Incentive Auction Report and Order to the Commissioners.
  • “Spring 2014” – the FCC is scheduled to vote on the Incentive Auctions Report and Order.
  • “Second Half 2014” – the FCC staff is supposed to release an Auction Comment Public Notice and a Procedures Public Notice that will provide additional details and seek comment on how the specific parts of the auction will actually function; these notices will also provide details about some type of extended mock auction that will invite substantial participation from potential bidders.
  • “Mid 2015” and “only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested” – the FCC will start the 600 MHz incentive auction.

The subject of multiple congressional hearings, including one before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this week, the US 600 MHz incentive auction is an innovative, two-sided spectrum auction authorized by the Spectrum Act of 2012 that is designed to encourage over-the-air broadcasters to surrender their spectrum to mobile broadband operators.  The newly announced delay allows the FCC more time to work the many complexities of one of the most technically complicated and politically fraught auctions of all time.