Story 2014-10-27 2TQT FCC Postpones Auction Of Broadcast TV Spectrum To 2016

FCC Postpones Auction Of Broadcast TV Spectrum To 2016

in mobile on (#2TQT)
The FCC has been working on a voluntary auction of broadcast TV frequencies for years, with plans to have it take place in mid-2015. But today the agency says it will postpone the sale to early 2016 as it grapples with a lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters complaining that many TV stations would end up with reduced coverage areas. Supporters of the auction say that unless wireless service providers have more spectrum, the fast-growing ranks of consumers using smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices will face dropped calls, dead zones, slow speeds, and high prices. The Obama administration is eager to free up 300MHz of bandwidth over five years, and 500MHz over a decade. That will be hard to accomplish without help from broadcasters – the biggest users of spectrum outside of the military, and operating on frequencies with propagation characteristics that are particularly desirable for mobile service providers.

The FCC has also said that its auction could be a windfall for some stations because they would share some of the proceeds. In fact a full-power TV station in Los Angeles could get as much as $570 million for its spectrum in the federal incentive auction. It's little wonder, then, that Los Angeles area public broadcast stations KCET and KLCS already announced joining forces to split a single over-the-air broadcast television channel, even as their business and programming operations remain separate, in order to free a channel for auction.

This delay comes shortly after the FCC pushed back the digital switch-over date for translators and low-power TV stations (from September 2015) allowing them another year to see how the auction results will affect their licenses, but now may require yet another delay. Which seems just as well, as the spectrum auction actually gives no consideration to their facilities at all, likely repurposing their channels, with no guarantee there will be any others slots left available for them to switch over to. This has some lawmakers taking-up their cause trying to ensure the survival of small community TV stations, and all broadcast TV in remote areas.
Reply 2 comments

Expiry (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-10-27 22:10 (#2TR2)

Shouldn't spectrum licences expire?

Re: Expiry (Score: 1)

by on 2014-10-28 00:16 (#2TR8)

Yes, broadcasters have to renew them all the time.

Here's their website to renew licenses:

TV broadcast licenses are 8 years.

Narrow-band 2-way business radio licenses are 10 years.

I don't know the specific term length or renewal fees for the incentive auction spectrum, and just the thought of looking through all those books full of legalese to find out already makes me feel nauseous.

The auction price just gets them the initial license. The FCC generally recognizes users of spectrum as having a right to keep using it, as long as they're paying their fees, using it as efficiently as possible, and following whatever other restrictions and requirements have been set-out by the FCC or Congress.

TV broadcasters aren't going to spend millions building their broadcasting infrastructure, if they might just suddenly lose their license. Similarly, wireless phone companies aren't going to spend billions building out their cell towers, if they might suddenly be rendered unusable.