That’s the word from FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake who says making public the algorithm from which they are derived is enough since the commission continues to “refine our approach to that as we move into the [spectrum auction] rulemaking.” For all that’s going on at NAB 2012, click here.
Are you among the broadcasters waiting for the results of the FCC’s computer analysis of various TV spectrum repacking scenarios?
Get used to it. You may be waiting forever.
Speaking on an NAB Show panel Tuesday, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said that it is “probably unlikely” the agency would ever release the computer runs, although it has released the algorithm on which they are based.
Lake suggested that the “test runs” were not meant for public consumption. “We have done many, many runs of [the algorithm]…. We will be trying to refine our approach to that as we move into the rulemaking.”
Lake’s answer differs from the one he gave at last year’s NAB. Asked then when the FCC would release its analyses, he promised them in “a few months.”
Earlier this year, Congress passed a law authorizing the FCC to auction TV spectrum to wireless carriers, but restricted it to spectrum that is voluntarily offered by broadcasters. As an inducement, the law allows the station owners to share in the proceeds.
But the so-called incentive auction would affect all broadcasters, even those who choose to hang on to their spectrum. That’s because at some point the TV band has to be repacked to aggregate the returned spectrum for auction.
Repacking mostly involves switching channel assignments, but could also involve changes in power levels and tower locations. All such changes affect coverage to some degree.
Although the law says the FCC must make all “reasonable” efforts not to degrade the coverage of the remaining stations, many broadcasters fear that it inevitably will.
Broadcasters have done their own repacking analyses, but have been hoping to see the FCC’s since the agency first released its incentive auction plan in March 2009.
On Monday, in his NAB address, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski encouraged broadcasters to consider turning in their spectrum in exchange for a payday, and sketched out what the FCC is doing to implement the auction — a process that could take a few years.
The chairman said that the FCC will consider new rules permitting channel sharing at its open meeting on April 27. The FCC hopes to induce some broadcasters to give up their spectrum by allowing two or more stations to share a single channel, while retaining must-carry and other rights that come with owning a full channel.
“That order should provide answers to many questions broadcasters are asking as they consider whether channel sharing is an option for them,” he said, noting that the order will be followed by a public workshop on May 6.
The FCC hopes to launch the principal rulemakings for implementing the incentive auction this fall, he said. To prepare for it, he added, the agency will be conducting an “auction-design” workshop “in the months ahead.”
Genachowski has already begun building the incentive auction task force. To lead it, he said, he hired Gary Epstein, a communications attorney at Latham & Watkins who already done two terms before at the FCC — as head of the Common Carrier Bureau and later as head of the DTV transition.
The FCC’s work will be assisted by auction-design experts, including economists Paul Milgrom and Jon Levin, he said.
On his panel, Lake provided a little elaboration on his boss’s outline. He said it wasn’t yet clear whether the FCC would launch multiple rulemakings this fall or one large one. Initially, the agency may choose to address the reverse and forward auctions in the same proceedings.
In the reverse auction, the FCC establishes the price it must pay to broadcasters. In the forward auction, it sells the recovered spectrum to others.
He said the May 8 channel-sharing workshop is intended to head off any confusion. “We know that uncertainty is a killer of incentives so we want to eliminate uncertainty.”
Lake said that it was in the FCC’s interest to work closely with broadcasters in designing the spectrum auction. “We won’t have any spectrum to sell unless broadcasters offer it. So, we very much want to do this is a way that broadcasters think will work.”
For all that’s going on at NAB 2012, click here.