FCC Models Spectrum Auction


According to sources at the commission, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski this week circulated a model of spectrum and incentive auction repacking as an addendum to its draft notice of proposed rulemaking on an auction framework, which was circulated last week.

The model is described as essentially a "tab A in slot B" description of the process, from reverse auction clock countdowns, to running the winning bids through the FCC's modeling for reconfiguring that spectrum, to the spectrum's re-auction to wireless, soliciting questions all along the way.

The model talks about cross-border spectrum arrangements and says there will probably have to be different rules for stations along the shared border with Canada and Mexico, seeking comment on what those should be.

Broadcasters are concerned about unresolved spectrum-coordination border issues that affect hundreds of stations.

The 20-page model, the work of outside consultants rather than FCC staffers, provides flexibility in the broadband plan for the forward auction--the re-auction of reclaimed spectrum presumably to spectrum-hungry wireless broadband players--assuming varying participation in the reverse auction, in which broadcasters will offer up the lowest price they will take for their spectrum, and the border issues. So, each market could wind up slightly different.

The goal, said an FCC source, is for a unified band plan, but it recognizes that there could be some markets where there is not enough broadcaster participation or along the border where it won't be as uniform.

According to statue, the FCC cannot force any broadcaster to give up spectrum, and the source said the model is specifically designed not to force anyone's hand, though that statutory definition is open to interpretation, wiggle room that could open up the auctions to lawsuits down the road.

Genachowski has set an ambitious mid-2013 deadline for voting the proposal and a 2014 deadline for completing both auctions.