FCC soliciting comments on spectrum auctions

By Dru Sefton

The FCC has released a 205-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the upcoming spectrum auctions to clear bandwidth for mobile devices, and is requesting comments.

In the notice, the FCC says that it anticipates participation in the auction by noncommercial educational licensees “will promote the overall goals of the broadcast television spectrum incentive auction and serve the public interest by providing NCE licensees with opportunities to strengthen their financial positions and improve their service to the public.”

The FCC also notes that channel sharing by commercial stations and NCE stations operating on reserved channels, one option for broadcasters in the auction, “raises special concerns.” Channel-sharing arrangements could result in “a de facto ‘dereservation’” of the reserved channel, the FCC says. So it is recommending a new method for allocating and licensing NCE stations on reserved channels. “Specifically, we propose an NCE licensee, whether it relinquishes its reserved channel in order to share a non-reserved channel, or agrees to share its reserved channel with a commercial station, retain its NCE status on its license and be required to continue to comply with the rules and policies applicable to NCE licensees. In this way, a portion of the shared channel (which, at a minimum must allow for the broadcast of one standard definition programming stream) would continue to be reserved for NCE-only use.”

The FCC also seeks comment “on whether we should consider in the repacking and assignment procedures whether a given broadcaster going off the air would create areas without any commercial or noncommercial broadcast television service.”

Interested parties may comment from Dec. 21 through Feb. 19, 2013. FCC Chair Julius Genachowski hopes to have spectrum auctions completed by the end of 2014.

Congress gave the FCC authority to conduct the auctions earlier this year.

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