The FCC is moving aggressively to auction television stations’ frequencies for cellular service providers by 2014, reports The Hill. The FCC will vote on moving ahead with the proposal at its meeting later this month.
According to FCC officials, Chairman Julius Genachowski will circulate an order on Friday with the other commissioners that will outline how the agency could craft the multibillion dollar auctions and will seek feedback from companies and the public.
The FCC believes that two television stations could voluntarily share a single six-megahertz channel and continue to broadcast their primary video streams in HD (pdf).
The FCC on Friday is issuing a separate proposal, reports the Washington Post, to reconsider how it measures market concentration of wireless carriers, the agency official said. That proceeding could determine whether the biggest carriers will be excluded from the FCC’s spectrum auction.
Congress authorized the auctions as part of tax cut extension legislation earlier this year but left the details of the implementation to the FCC.
Structuring a reverse auction would be tricky since it would require the FCC to pay broadcasters for their spectrum before the FCC knew how much carriers would want to buy it for. In addition, there were no guarantees that urban broadcasters who had the most valuable spectrum would want to vacate their bands.
The commission is aiming for an aggressive 2014 deadline because it plans to buy back the spectrum and hold the auctions almost simultaneously.
In 2010, the National Broadband Plan suggested the FCC might find up to 120 megahertz on UHF TV channels. The idea, explains GigaOm, was that the FCC could create some kind of reverse auction that would pay broadcasters to give up this valuable spectrum that the FCC had granted them for free.
The FCC is planning to auction unused television frequencies for licensed broadband wireless after “repacking” broadcasters into the VHF and lower UHF spectrum. Currently US television uses channel 2 (54 Mhz) through channel 51 (698 MHz). The FCC hopes to vacate channel 31-51 and auction them for mobile broadband. The “incentive auction” of channels in the UHF television band is expected to raise some $25 billion.
Auctioning 120 MHz between channels 31 and 51 should still leave 29 (“free”) DTV channels, between Channel 2 and Channel 30, for group owners to profit by (at no cost to them) – essentially subsidized by all U.S. taxpayers.
Some 75 years ago, a high “public service” value was placed on radio and television for disseminating news and information. Today local television stations are largely controlled by group owners…and don’t pay taxpayers one dime for the privilege.
In its national broadband plan, the FCC is proposing free up some 300 MHz spectrum for auctioning as part of an effort to eventually free up 500 Mhz of spectrum for commercial wireless broadband.
Steve Largent, CEO of the wireless industry’s trade association, CTIA, said he was “very pleased” that the FCC is beginning the process of implementing the spectrum auctions.
The NAB says it supports “truly voluntary” spectrum incentive auctions. They want the option of staying in place even though it would block a “broadband freeway”, in order to leverage their position.
The majority of Republicans wanted to give the 700 MHz “D Block” spectrum exclusively to First Responders and build a $15 billion nationwide, cellular broadband network, dedicated exclusively to them.
The broadcast incentive auction would provide the money.
Related DailyWireless stories include; FCC Gets White Space Autonomy, Public Service Gives Up 470-512 Mhz, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, First Responders Get Bills for D-Block , FCC Makes TV Spectrum Sharing Official, Free Spectrum for Cities: Fergetaboutit, Verizon: Spectrum Scarcity is Good, The National Broadband Plan, Battle of the Bands, Cellcos: One Thing – Bandwidth, AT&T Can’t Give Away Their Muni WiFi Net, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz, Free Internet Access Proposed by FCC, FCC: 2150 MHz, No Problem, CellCos to Martin: Sit Down and Shut Up, FCC: Free Broadband at 2155-2180 MHz,