FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has laid out his plan for how the C-band will be used to spur 5G development, announcing his plans to conduct a public auction of 280 MHz of the spectrum with a potential launch date of Dec. 8.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has decided to hold a public auction of C-Band spectrum. That is the midband spectrum the FCC wants to free up for 5G, and that is the proposal that the chairman signaled Monday he would be asking the other commissioners to vote to approve in an order early next year.
As promised at a recent hearing, Rep. Doris Matsui, co-chair of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, has released a discussion draft of a C-Band repurposing compromise bill, the Wireless Investment Now in 5G Act, that would have the FCC auctioning some or all of the (3700-4200 MHz) midband spectrum in its effort to free up more airwaves for next-gen wireless broadband.
As owners of earth stations, broadcasters may be able to cut themselves in for a portion of the billions that satellite operators hope to get from the sale of some of their C-band spectrum to 5G wireless carriers. But I’d rather see the taxpayers get the excess proceeds.
With another FCC spectrum auction in the books, many broadcasters may be interested in taking stock of the value of their spectrum usage rights and the likelihood that they may have an opportunity to monetize their spectrum sometime in the future. Let’s start with the most recent news and then try to figure out what it means for broadcasters.
t’s part of an aggressive push towards super-fast 5G wireless services, which require new swaths of airwaves to become available to the carriers building the networks. The FCC said it wants to hold two auctions — first of the 28 GHz band and then of the 24 GHz band — starting later this year.
Newsy Ramps Up For 24/7 News
The commission’s Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau are teaming up to present a one-hour webinar to go over various aspects of the channel sharing bid option. That’s the option that could let folks sell their current spectrum back to the Feds while staying in the broadcast business by bunking up with another licensee on that other licensee’s channel. The webinar is scheduled for 2-3 p.m., Wednesday, July 22.
The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology today released the final version of its TVStudy software, which calculates TV station coverage areas for use in the spectrum auction and repacking. In addition, it also released a 65-page table laying out its coverage area calculations for TV stations across the country using the final version of the TVStudy software.
TV stations included on the FCC’s Eligibility List have got to file Form 2100, Schedule 381 (official name: “Pre-Auction Technical Certification Form”) by July 9, which is right around the corner. But how, exactly, do you do that? And where? Here are the answers.
Engineers and wireless equipment vendors say the FCC’s plans to reduce and limit frequencies for wireless devices following the spectrum repack next year are going to cause a myriad of problems. The commission’s proposals are “not a workable solution,” says engineer Louis Libin.
The Department of Justice is adding to the pressure on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to set aside a larger spectrum reserve in the broadcast incentive auction for bidders other than AT&T and Verizon. Writing to Wheeler, William Baer, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ, implored the chairman to use the broadcast incentive auction policies “to ensure that wireless carriers, other than those that currently hold the majority of low-frequency spectrum, have a meaningful opportunity to acquire the spectrum necessary to foster a competitive wireless market.”
The public TV groups say the commission’s denial of their request for changes in the incentive auction process “create the very real possibility of a number of communities across America losing public television service following next year’s broadcast spectrum incentive auction.”
The FCC plans to drop dynamic reserve pricing, a method of pricing that could have lowered station prices. Although the FCC is killing DRP, it rejected a proposal from would-be station sellers for a more preferred pricing formula that takes into account population covered by the station.
Many TV viewers could lose their PBS programs if one or both of the Toledo region’s PBS stations sell out and go off the air to make way for more frequencies for cellphones and other mobile devices. WBGU, owned by Bowling Green State University, is strongly considering selling its license during the FCC’s buy-back auction next year. WGTE, an educational station based in Toledo for 63 years, may consider the auction, but is less likely to sell, according to executives.
On Tuesday the FCC released a Public Notice with a 45-page appendix listing all full-power and Class A TV stations eligible to participate in the reverse auction and receive protection in the repacking process. Licensees should immediately review the appendix to ensure their station has been included and to determine whether the appropriate authorization for their facility has been listed for auction participation and protection in the repacking. Any station that believes it has been wrongly omitted from the appendix must file a Petition for Eligible Entity Status by July 9.
Public broadcasters continue to press the FCC to ensure that the upcoming repacking of spectrum does not create “white areas” where over-the-air viewers would lose access to public television.
The FCC has announced a number of new regional information sessions on the TV incentive auction, by which the FCC proposes to purchase the spectrum of some TV stations to resell that spectrum to wireless users. At these seminars, the FCC representatives will answer questions from the stations attending, and schedule private meetings with TV owners to discuss the specifics of the amounts that they will initially be offered to surrender their spectrum and other issues.
The NAB is “comfortable” with the FCC’s current formula for calculating the opening bids it will use to entice broadcasters to sell spectrum in a reverse auction so that it can resell it to wireless carriers in a conventional forward auction. “It’s important for us to get the entire auction right, not just this one issue,” says NAB’s Rick Kaplan. Among other things, the NAB has to make sure non-selling broadcasters are not harmed in the repacking of the TV band that will follow the auction.
If the buyer of five Class A TVs around Pittsburgh later sells the stations in the FCC’s incentive auction, it will pay a percentage to the seller, based on a sliding scale.
Congress held its sixth hearing in two weeks with the FCC. But this time, there FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler got a break, and Congress gave net neutrality a rest. Instead Congress focused on the next major FCC project: the world’s most complex auction of wireless spectrum. FCC officials sought to reassure a House subcommittee that the commission was taking all the right steps so the incentive auction, just a year away, would be as successful as the recently-completed AWS-3 auction.
TV stations could be stuck with a big moving bill when the FCC rearranges the TV dial following the broadcast incentive auction of wireless spectrum planned for first quarter 2016. Congress set aside $1.75 billion in the law to help stations pay for the cost of moving from one frequency to another. But that may fall short by nearly a billion dollars if as many as 95% of TV stations end up being moved onto a new channel, says the NAB.
Comcast EVP David Cohen says the bigger-than-expected results of the FCC’s AWS spectrum auction has NBCU — among many other broadcasters — considering participating in the upcoming incentive auction. However, that interest might be mitigated by uncertainty over how much spectrum will be needed to make a strong push to mobile devices.
FCC Commissioner Pai started it; Chairman Wheeler committed to it; now Congress is getting behind the effort to revamp FCC spectrum auction rules that facilitate small business participation in wireless auctions. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a draft discussion bill directing the FCC to update its spectrum auction rules that are designed to help small businesses and encourage competition.
To encourage broadcaster participation in its upcoming incentive auction, the agency today unveiled some blockbuster opening bids that it plans to offer key major-market broadcasters for at least agreeing to participate in the auction — including top bids of $870 million for full-power stations in New York and $680 million in Philadelphia.
Executives from more than 100 public television stations have participated in three webinars about the upcoming spectrum auction, CPB directors were told at a board meeting Tuesday. And 22 stations have applied for a total of $658,000 in assistance from a $3 million CPB pool to help them research the ramifications of participating in the auction, scheduled for next year.
The FCC’s Media Bureau has designated May 29 as the date by which certain full-power and Class A TV stations must have a license application on file with the FCC in order for their modified facilities to be protected in the repacking process following the spectrum incentive auction. While the FCC earlier concluded that full-power and Class A TV facilities licensed by Feb. 22, 2012, would be protected in the repacking, it envisioned protection of TV facilities licensed after that date in a few specific situations. It is to this latter group that this May 29 deadline applies.
The commission’s Incentive Auction Task Force will conduct information sessions in cities around the country between February and May
he FCC’s Auction Comment Public Notice was neither brief nor simple, with 68 pages of text and almost 90 pages of appendices. If you are looking for a detailed summary, you can find it here. In this post, we identify five takeaways from the PN that broadcasters should know.
The Preston Padden-led Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition says the FCC’s proposed pricing formula for the 2016 incentive auction is based 50% on the interference-free population that a station serves. This component, EOBC says “is completely irrelevant to a station’s interference or ‘blocking’ profile and is included in the formula for one reason — to drive down prices.”
With the success of the AWS-3 spectrum auction — bids have now climbed past $43.5 billion — NAB President Gordon Smith says the FCC can afford to take a more measured approach to the auction and the repacking of the TV band. “The FCC has a chance to step back and recognize that a successful TV auction is within reach.”
The FCC today launched a proceeding to write the rules for the TV incentive auction. But the two GOP commissioners voted against it, saying that some of the proposed rules would limit how much broadcasters can get paid for their spectrum and thus discourage them from participating.
Representing a small group of spectrum speculators, Preston Padden is working to ensure that all station owners who want to sell their spectrum in the FCC incentive auction get the highest price possible. While I still believe it’s a mistake for strong, news-producing TV stations to sell their spectrum, there are plenty of broadcasters who should be thinking about taking the auction exit. And if they are thinking about it, they should also be thinking about joining Padden’s fight for a broadcast-friendly auction.
Like the first sparse snowflakes heralding a major blizzard long predicted but slow to arrive, an announcement in the Federal Register confirms that the FCC’s spectrum auction is indeed approaching. The public notice invites comment on a new “information collection” — dubbed Form 2100, Schedule 381 — which all full-power and Class A television licensees will have to complete and submit prior to the incentive auction. However, while the Federal Register notice asks the public to comment on the proposed “information collection,” the form itself does not appear to be currently available.
Preston Padden, head of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, says one FCC proposal for the 2016 incentive auction could limit the prices broadcasters get for the spectrum of stations in smaller markets, thereby discouraging their participation. Another, he says, the use of “dynamic reserve pricing” during the auction, would be likely to result in lower prices for broadcasters than a more market-friendly auction approach advocated by the coalition.
A government auction of airwaves for use in mobile broadband has blown through presale estimates, becoming the biggest auction in the FCC’s history and signaling that wireless companies expect demand for Internet access by smartphones to continue to soar. “It’s stunning,” said Preston Padden, executive director of the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition, a group representing broadcast television stations that are considering giving up their spectrum for sale in the FCC’s next auction, scheduled for 2016.
The FCC has postponed accepting applications for its incentive spectrum auction until the fall of 2015 and now expects to start the auction in early 2016. While the delay is designed to allow time for the courts to address some of the thorny issues surrounding the process, all stations would be well served to take advantage of this time to conduct their own due diligence. Here are a few of the questions facing both auction applicants and stations affected by spectrum repacking.
Ion Media CEO Brandon Burgess says while his company is looking at the pros and cons of selling some spectrum, he’s doubtful it will and, what’s more, he questions whether the auction, planned for 2016, will ever take place.
But, says Paul Karpowicz, head of the company’s Local Media Group, “we haven’t made a decision on participating in the auction.”
CPB will spend $3 million to give public television executives access to expert advice on the upcoming broadcast spectrum auction. The extremely high value of spectrum as appraised by an Oct. 1 FCC report created a “considerable amount of confusion” among managers, said Michael Levy, CPB EVP. Previous estimates had been much lower.