October 16, 2015 - 4:00 pm
By Gary Epstein | Chair, Incentive Auction Task Force
Howard Symons | Vice-Chair, Incentive Auction Task Force

Today wraps up an important week for the Incentive Auction with the release of two critical items: the Application Procedures Public Notice and the final opening bid prices for broadcast stations.

Earlier today Chairman Wheeler called this a “watershed moment” for auction participants, and he’s exactly right. Broadcasters and potential forward auction participants now have in their hands all of the information they will need to decide whether to participate in the auction. We have set 6 p.m. on December 18, 2015, as the date by which interested broadcasters must file their applications; forward auction bidders must file by 6 p.m. on January 28, 2016.

After years of planning and deliberations, this thing is real. The Application Procedures PN is the “How to Apply” manual for reverse and forward auction participants. It explains how to complete and submit the applications, and provides a detailed schedule of pre-auction bidder education and training events. It contains detailed attachments covering matters such as the technical details regarding the procedure for determining the spectrum clearing target, the algorithms for the reverse and forward auction bid processing determination procedure, and the bidding units for determining upfront payments and minimum opening bids in the forward auction. Concurrently with the Application Procedures PN, additional data and information related to the incentive auction, including the final interference “constraints” and the associated supporting files, have been made available on the Auction 1000 website (http://www.fcc.gov/auctions/1000).

Today’s release of opening bid prices for broadcasters completes the package. For each eligible station, the Incentive Auction Task Force has provided prices for each of the possible bid options available to a station: the option for a station to relinquish its license in full, the option for a UHF station to move to a high-VHF channel, or the option for a UHF or high-VHF station to move to a low-VHF channel. Over the past year, we have met with many broadcasters across the country who wanted to better understand the auction and the opportunities it presents. As of today, each potential participant knows the price at which we would begin the bidding for their stations. Now it’s decision time.

What happens next? As we noted in August, the Task Force and the Auctions Division will continue our bidder education efforts, which will include a series of webinars, practice sessions, and mock auctions that will begin even before the application deadlines. Once applications are filed, FCC staff will review them for accuracy and completeness. On March 29, 2016, broadcasters that filed an application by the December 18, 2015, deadline that is deemed complete will make their initial bid commitment and the auction will begin. In the intervening months, as Chairman Wheeler indicated today, Task Force and Commission staff stand ready to assist potential bidders as they prepare to participate in this historic auction.