There are two auctions coming up for a big chunk of broadcast spectrum. A smaller one is next month in January 2014 and the second, larger auction was supposed to be in June. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that the big auction in June will now be pushed back to 2015.
The Broadcast Television Spectrum Initiative Auction, as it is called, has been talked about a lot at the FCC over the past month, since Wheeler took over as Chairman. Wheeler said that the FCC can't just issue an auction without putting some rules and policies behind the spectrum, such as what it can be used for. Wheeler has been working with the Incentive Auction Task Force on trying to meet the deadline of June 2014 but it just isn't going to happen. Wheeler said that the FCC will wait until new technologies, software and systems are in place and have been thoroughly tested before they decide to send everything to auction.
On the decision to push the date back, he said,
There are several key ingredients to fulfilling our instructions from Congress and making the incentive auction a success. We absolutely must make fact-based policy decisions in an open and transparent manner. Beyond the policy issues, however, we must also exhaustively test the operating systems and the software necessary to conduct the world's first-of-a kind incentive auction. This includes ensuring that such systems are user-friendly to both broadcasters and wireless carriers who will participate...
I believe we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015. To achieve that goal, there will be a number of important milestones along the way. The Task Force will provide more details about the timeline and milestones in a presentation at the January 2014 Commission meeting.
Here's how it will all go down. The smaller auction of the 10MHz of space will happen in January 2014 as planned. Then, based on Congress passing the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act last year, 65MHz of spectrum must be auctioned off by the end of 2015. All of the money made from these auctions will go towards implementing first responder LTE network, FirstNet. This new network would allow first responders to have a dedicated system to be used for both their everyday and emergency operations.
So while there's not much change or news to write home about here, it was important to note that the FCC is acting in a methodical and carefully-planned manner, which is sometimes a rarity for the Commission. It's also refreshing to see that there is an actual effort being placed on making sure the spectrum can be implemented immediately and that there will even be a "mock auction" before everything actually takes place, in order to ensure that any flaws in the entire project are found before they do this for real.