FCC Delays Incentive Auction Until 2016 (10/27/14)
Monday, October 27, 2014 | Comments

An FCC official said the 600 MHz incentive auction will be pushed back again from 2015 to early 2016. The commission said it now anticipates accepting applications for the auction in the fall of 2015 and starting the auction in early 2016.

“Despite this brief delay, we remain focused on the path to successfully implementing the incentive auction,” said Gary Epstein, chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, in a blog post.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Sinclair Technologies have challenged the auction before the U.S. Court of Appeals, introducing uncertainty, FCC officials said.

“Earlier this week, the court issued a briefing schedule in which the final briefs are not due until late January 2015,” Epstein said. “Oral arguments will follow at a later date yet to be determined, with a decision not likely until mid-2015.”

Epstein said the commission is confident it will prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, the delay was necessary.

In addition, more than 30 companies have filed petitions for reconsideration expressing discontent with various aspects of the incentive auction order that the FCC will have to address and resolve. The petitions have been published in the Federal Register, (link to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-10-27/pdf/2014-25456.pdf) and oppositions must be filed by Nov. 12, with replies due Nov. 21.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pushed the auction back to 2015 when he joined the commission last year.

“While it is unfortunate that the FCC’s momentum has been temporarily been slowed by legal challenges, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) appreciates the FCC’s continuing outreach to broadcasters,” the association said. “The FCC’s recent release of information regarding potential valuations for participating broadcasters was very encouraging, and TIA remains hopeful that many broadcasters will ultimately participate. Even as we hope that outstanding legal issues can be resolved expeditiously, TIA encourages the FCC to leverage the time created by any potential delay to provide further clarity that will maximize broadcaster participation.”

For more on what an incentive auction delay means for funding the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), see “Inside Washington” in the October issue of MissionCritical Communications.

See the full FCC blog post here.

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