Multiple FCC sources confirm that when the commission issues a spectrum incentive auction notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), scheduled for a vote on Friday, Sept. 28, it will not include an allocation optimization model (AOM) of how the FCC proposes to repack TV stations into a post- incentive auction-depleted broadcast band.
In fact, that model will not be used for the incentive auctions at all. "The AOM was used for studying repacking in the context of the national broadband plan," said FCC spokesman Neil Grace, "but is not consistent with the requirements of the Spectrum Act. We are in the process of assessing repacking methodologies and at the appropriate time we will be seeking input on various methodologies from stakeholders in an open and transparent manner."
The NPRM, which is still a work in progress and seeks comment from stakeholders, is the official launch of the FCC's effort to reclaim up to 120 MHz of spectrum from broadcasters to auction for its "highest, best use," which is expected to be wireless broadband companies with deep pockets and a desire for more spectrum.
Broadcasters, and others, have been eager to find out just how the FCC planned to accommodate the TV stations who do not give up all their spectrum for auction but instead decide to continue to deliver free, over-the-air TV to the millions of over-the-air-only viewers.
Congress has directed the FCC to make its best efforts to replicate coverage areas and interference protections for the broadcasters who remain in the business, but the legislation sets no benchmarks for meeting that standard.
Broadcasters want the FCC to give them a better idea of just how good those best efforts will be before deciding whether or not to give up spectrum for auction. According to sources, the draft rulemaking suggests broadcasters will retain north of 98% of their coverage areas, the FCC's goal in its repacking of broadcasters in the DTV transition back in 2009.