The FCC has decided to delay the 600MHz TV spectrum auction initially planned for 2015, due to an impending court case. Gary Epstein, Chair of the FCC’s incentive auction task force, announced the move in a blog posted just a short while ago.
Earlier this week, the court issued a briefing schedule in which the final briefs are not due until late January 2015. Oral arguments will follow at a later date yet to be determined, with a decision not likely until mid-2015. We are confident we 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, we now anticipate 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.
Epstein notes that there are “undeniable impediments” to the Commission’s efforts to push a successful auction. TV broadcasters are concerned that the stations being pushed closer together will result in a the viewership being decreased.
As reported by Fierce Wireless:
The NAB sued the FCC in August, arguing that the agency’s rules would diminish broadcasters’ coverage areas and could result in a loss in viewership. One of the broadcasters’ main arguments against the FCC is that the commission has changed how it calculates TV station coverage areas, using a methodology known as OET-69, referencing the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
This could all play in to T-Mobile’s hands. Only yesterday, the carrier’s chief of regulatory affairs submitted a petition to the FCC, asking that spectrum reserve rules be changed to make it easier for carriers without substantial amounts of low-band spectrum to get their hands on some. With the auction’s expected date being pushed back, it gives T-Mo more time to petition, lobby and argue for a fairer set of rules.