Originally published: June 16, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:41am
The Federal Communications Commission wants to make about 500MHz available for wireless broadband over the next decade, 300MHz of that in five years, with about 120MHz of it coming from the broadcast television bands.
Within that 120MHz context, the UHF TV region appears particularly juicy to the FCC. The big plan is to create a "Mobility Fund" through which TV license owners can sell or share this wealth of spectrum. The basic idea is "incentive auctions" in which broadcasters who give up their licenses get a share of the consequent auction proceeds. Here are the three ways the FCC thinks this could be done.
1) A "two step auction." In phase one of this system, individual broadcasters would announce the minimum auction price at which they'd be willing to relinquish their license to the FCC. The agency would then conduct "a re packing analysis" of the spectrum and the cost of "clearing" for transfer to a wireless company.
2) An "exchange," in which groups of broadcasters would offer up their spectrum together and bidders offer prices on them simultaneously.
3) A license sharing or "overlay" regimen in which the FCC divides the broadcast TV bands into large, contiguous blocks and auctions all or a portion of those blocks as overlay licenses with flexible use. Overlay licensees would have co-primary rights with DTV stations. They would have primary rights in any part of the license area that is not served by DTV licensees, but would have to protect any DTV broadcast stations in their service area. The overlay license holders could negotiate directly with broadcast TV stations to clear the spectrum either by discontinuing over-the-air signals or by relocating to another block. One overlay license holder could pay another overlay license holder to accept the relocated station or pay a broadcast TV station to share its bandwidth with that relocated station.
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