FCC delays US broadcast spectrum auction

Prism spectrum

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had revealed it expects the reallocation, via auction, of broadcast spectrum for mobile use will be delayed until early 2016. The FCC had originally hoped to conduct the auctions in mid-2015, but pointed to uncertainty generated by court challenges to the rules of the auctions from some broadcasters as a reason for the delay.

The announcement was made by Gary Epstein, Chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, in a blog post. After much preamble focused mainly on all the great progress made this year, Epstein got to the point. “Amidst this multi-front progress, however, there are undeniable impediments to our efforts to implement a successful auction,” he blogged. As Chairman Wheeler indicated several weeks ago, the court challenges to the auction rules by some broadcasters have introduced uncertainty.”

Epstein reckons it will take half a year for this legal process to play out – hence the delay. The National Association of Broadcasters doesn’t see it that way, however. “We reject suggestions that our narrowly focused lawsuit is cause for delay,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton. “We look forward to a speedy resolution of our legal challenge and a successful auction that preserves access to free and local TV for every American.”

The idea behind these auctions is to give every owner of some broadcast spectrum the chance to flog it to a telco. However, they presumably want some reassurance the price reached for their spectrum will make it worthwhile them spectrum-sharing or exiting the market altogether.

In other FCC news, the regulator had approved the acquisition of business fixed-line player TW Telecom by multinational core fixed-line telco player Level 3 Communications. This clears the way for the $7.3 billion acquisition to go ahead and continues the trend towards consolidation in the US telco market.

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