Watchdog quantifies incentive auction questions


GavelDo you have questions about how the incentive auction process will work its magic – converting broadcast spectrum to mobile broadband spectrum while enriching the US Treasury? If you said yes, you are not alone – the Digital Policy Institute poses the top ten questions about the process.

Without further ado, let’s take a look:

Reverse Auction
1. What happens if there aren’t enough broadcast participants to reclaim 120 MHz of spectrum? DPI says it’s unclear. Market-based solution with no government middle man? Other changes to the process? Simply taking channels? The best we know at the moment is that there is no “Plan B.”

2. What happens if there are too many volunteers some place and not enough in others? Again, DPI says it’s unclear what will happen. But in RBR-TVBR’s estimation, this is likely to happen. Small operators struggling to get by in a tiny market may be willing to sell but find no buyers, while broadcasters thriving in large markets will have little incentive to get out of the business for a one-time pay-off.

3. Will broadcasters lose coverage area? DPI says this is possible – some stations may be squeezed into a smaller contour, but should be compensated.

4. Is other spectrum being repurposed for wireless? The answer is yes. RBR-TVBR notes that it is unknown how much this might alleviate the pressure to reclaim television spectrum.

5. What will be considered an acceptable level of interference? DPI says the FCC’s remarks in the NPRM are not helpful – questions are said to far outnumber answers.

Forward Auction
6. Who will be allowed to bid for the spectrum? The debate is about barring well-heeled AT&T and Verizon from the process to increase licensee diversity, but the concern is that such a move will drive down revenues reaped and also dampen broadcaster participation.

7. What happens if less money is raised in the forward auction than promised in the reverse auction? Unknown.

8. When will acquired frequencies become available for use? Another unknown – if there is a consensus opinion about the process, it may be that the timetables we have been hearing about all along are not going to be met.

The Future
9. Will this auction satisfy the need for more wireless spectrum? DPI says that it’s unlikely.

10. Will “losers” in the process be able to delay it? DPI says yes – and RBR-TVBR has been saying that all along as well. Every entity that is strong enough to be a player in this game knows what lawyers are and where the courts are located.

The list is the product of DPI affiliates Barry Umansky, J.D. and Dom Caristi, Ph.D. DPI is located at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. The study was published in Fierce Wireless.