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FCC Chairman Talks Incentive Auction Plans

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Jun 26, 2014, 10:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has discussed the broad strokes for incentivizing television broadcasters to give up their 600MHz spectrum. The FCC will meet with broadcasters one at a time to explain in depth the benefits of participating. The FCC will pitch the auction as an easy and risk free, confidential, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a lot of money. Beginning in the middle of 2015, the FCC will ask broadcasters to give up their spectrum in the "reverse" part of the spectrum. When that process is complete, the auction will move into the "forward" phase, wherein wireless network operators bid on the spectrum. The money bid by the network operators will then be given to the broadcasters. "Robust participation by broadcasters will be critical to the success of the auction," said Wheeler. "The decision of whether or not to participate is completely voluntary and confidential. We recognize that spectrum auctions are new for most broadcasters, and that we owe them additional information before the Incentive Auction." So far no broadcasters have stepped forward to announce their participation, but wireless network operators are eager for the incentive auction to get under way. The 600MHz airwaves are highly coveted thanks to their propagation characteristics. The FCC has already suggested rules that will give some preferential treatment to smaller operators so they have a chance at the valuable spectrum.

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