FCC ‘Unlikely’ To Release Repacking Data

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.

Comments (3)

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Ellen Samrock says:

April 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Not surprised. I’m sure the FCC’s modeling produced results similar to and just as ugly as the one the NAB did some time ago. Broadcasters need to stand their ground on this issue. No AOM, no participation.


April 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Too bad Dick Clark died today…he could have created another new game show, featuring the FCC crew called “Make It Up As You Go.” What a cast of characters. And the shame is that ti will be difficult, if not impossible, to put things back the way they were once the spectum mess is made. Broadcasters should not voluntarily give up one byte of spectrum space, period.

Craig Davenport says:

April 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

As usual, the tail is wagging the dog. A few days back, Lake says, “The broadcasters can jump into the spectrum-purchasing pool too.” and nobody has yet figured out that they’ve been lying to EVERYONE about broadband shortages/outages/cramming/whatever. And we’re suppose to keep taking it in the rear everytime some FCC-wonk opens his/her mouth and promises this and postulates that??? How many checks are we waiting at the mailbox for??? Typical political BS…can’t figure out that spending money we don’t have doesn’t fix any problem, it just brings out more sheisters to feed at the money-trough. And, by not shutting off the flow, they think they can make things better by giving/selling to the company/entity with the golden goose being held by the short-hairs, all at the expense/frustration of those that have built up and manage to run good companies. Doesn’t anyone see the paradigm they’re trying to set up here? In order to get your “information” – you’ll have to pay for it. No Pay, No Way You’re “Netting!” Since OTA (free) will be gone, good luck getting any information when the hub is down, the node is nuked or the server is swimming in 6″ of sewage. Nothing is designed to be fool-proof…’cause fools are the standard by which all is manufactured for. And we elected the worst batch of fools…communists…they take from the productive to give to those that are too lazy to do anything but vote for the feeders…and we’re all too stupid to realize that we’re also the bottom of the feeders…as long as I get my cut/share, I don’t care. Kiss free OTA TV/Radio goodbye. In five years (assuming we’re still able to experience “discretionary income”), you might be able to read any of this drivel…assuming, again, that this stuff hasn’t be sensored or is in a “higher tier” than what you’re allowed to view. Good luck figuring that out…

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