The FCC announced it postponing again the upcoming Incentive Auction from mid-2015 to 2016.
The goal of the auction is to resell rights to 600 MHz spectrum previously reserved as unused buffer space to avoid interference between TV broadcast stations.
The Commission attributed this second delay to legal challenges from broadcasters, as well as the auction's complexity and "the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance."
The entire proposal rests on a guarantee to broadcasters that the unused space can be used without interfering with their signals. Not all broadcasters are satisfied that the method the FCC is using to determine coverage areas and evaluate potential interference patterns will do that, and on that basis, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed a court challenge last month. Sinclair Broadcasting filed a separate suit challenging the entire process.
The FCC, in a blog post today, said it expects to prevail on all counts, but acknowledged that even with an expedited court schedule (that all parties have already agreed to), there would not be enough time left to organize a the auction by mid-year next year.
The 600 MHz spectrum is considered particularly valuable because transmissions at that frequency are better able to penetrate walls and other obstacles more readily than transmissions at higher frequencies.
One of the first public responses to the announcement was from CCA president & CEO Steven K. Berry, who said in a statement, "The FCC’s decision to delay the time frame for the incentive auction is not particularly surprising, and one could say a delay was actually expected. The incentive auction is still on track, even with the slight delay. There is an old saying that, ‘If you want it bad, you will get it bad.’ I know our members want it right, and the FCC is just trying to ‘get it right.’ I have been impressed with the quality and progress of the work of the FCC team so far. This is a reasonable if not expected short delay for a very complicated auction and will allow time for the industry to plan for the acquisition and integration of the most valuable low band spectrum made available to the wireless industry in over a decade! Everyone remains interested in the 600MHz spectrum auction and every carrier needs low band spectrum.”