Questions Aplenty on FCC Incentive Auction Framework

Agency Vets Internal Questions, Suggestions for Upcoming Incentive Auction Framework
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The FCC is going through "a whole bunch of edits and questions" from commissioners' offices on the upcoming spectrum auction framework notice of proposed rulemaking, which is scheduled for a vote Friday, Sept. 28. Those questions include the wisdom of holding simultaneous auctions, as the FCC is proposing.

According to a source familiar with the edit chain, questions include whether the FCC is setting aside too much spectrum for unlicensed use, and whether it might make more sense to do the auctions sequentially.

According to the proposed simultaneous auction model, the FCC would take the lowest broadcaster bids, run them through a repacking model (as yet to be determined), decide which spectrum is needed, then turn around and offer that spectrum to wireless companies and others to the highest bidder in the forward auction. If nobody bids at that level, the FCC then goes back and says: "Nobody on the wireless side was willing to pay that much, how much less will you take?"

The repacking model the FCC will run that spectrum through will not be the allocation optimization model (AOM) talked about in the National Broadband Plan. Instead, the FCC will propose various approaches before it votes on final rules and give broadcasters and others a chance to weigh in, according to an FCC spokesman.

"Broadcasters have been waiting for a long time for specifics on how the FCC intends to implement the incentive auction program," the National Association of Broadcasters said in a statement. "We look forward to this week's NPRM, and we intend to work with the FCC and Congress to ensure that millions of viewers who rely on stations that won't be volunteering to go out of business will remain unharmed."

The FCC is proposing to vote on final auction and repacking rules by the middle of 2013, and finish the auction process by the end of 2014.