GAB-DC Counsel FCC Incentive Auction Watch July 31 2014
GAB members regularly receive updates on the regulatory environment and ongoing deadlines from our Washington, DC Counsel at Wilkinson Barker Knauer. Here is the a latest update from Associate Kevin T. Ryan: At the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council’s Access to Capital conference on July 29, FCC commissioners discussed the agency’s designated entity rules. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the DE rules should be reviewed to make certain that the FCC is not inadvertently erecting barriers to entry. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated that the DE rules should be revisited across the board with the goal to increase minority participation. Commissioner Ajit Pai said the goal is to increase participation in auctions, and small business and minority participation may rise if bids are allowed on areas smaller than the current “economic areas.” Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said that it is difficult to balance the goal of raising funding and granting spectrum to those who can best use it, while noting that he was optimistic that the incentive auction would be “very successful.” On July 24, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing that examined a new bill aimed at “preserving” low-power television (“LPTV”) and TV translators in the incentive auction. Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said that the discussion draft of the LPTV and Translator Act of 2014, offered by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) addresses how the FCC should treat LPTV and TV translators in the upcoming broadcast incentive auction. While LPTV stations and TV translators are not eligible to participate in the auction, this draft urges the FCC to account for the value of LPTV and translators to communities all across this country, Walden added. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) stated that she has concerns with the LPTV Act, noting that while LPTV is an important public service and the FCC has already agreed to preserve their spectrum rights, the bill could dismantle the carefully crafted balance of the incentive auctions. Barton said, “Some of the strongest low-power TV advocates are against this bill because they think it doesn't do anything. On the other hand, there are people who think it goes too far. … I think we've got it just right.” Barton added this bill would give LPTV interests “increased moral standing, if nothing else.” The Democratic staff hearing memo said, “If enacted, the legislation could inject new, unpredictable variables into a highly complex auction planning process that is already underway at the FCC to implement the 2012 law, thereby threatening the success of the world's first incentive auction. It also could disrupt the Commission's ongoing spectrum management authority and flexibility to repack and reorganize the broadcast television band as appropriate.” “You're over the top with this notion that we're going to blow up this whole auction,” Walden responded. At a Politico event on the Future of Mobile on June 6, Commissioner Clyburn said the incentive auction is “absolutely not a train wreck,” adding that the FCC is in the “spectrum-enabling business.” The auction is “an opportunity to improve, to make efficient, both the broadcast space and the wireless space. How many times can you have an engagement that is voluntary, that has the opportunity to repurpose spectrum for its greater use?” She added that the agency is reaching out to broadcasters to inform them, “[T]his is what we anticipate all of this looking like.” She said, “This, I think, is an opportunity that is unique.” In response to a request from the National Association of Broadcasters, the FCC released on June 26 the interference simulations data that was used in its incentive auction repacking analysis announced in a June 2 Public Notice. As you may recall, the purpose of that analysis was to determine the potential for new aggregate interference under the FCC’s adopted approach for preserving population served. In its analysis, the FCC performed 100 repacking simulations using three approaches to create simulated sets of stations to be repacked. According to the Public Notice, the analysis showed “that approximately one percent of all stations in simulated channel reassignments received new interference above one percent, and that the majority of stations received new aggregate interference well below the de minimis pairwise interference limit adopted by the Commission.” The interference simulations are available here - http://data.fcc.gov/download/incentive-auctions/Simulation_Results/#content. The FCC noted that the metrics released today do not reflect staff or Commission assumptions about auction participation or station valuation. In a blog post on June 25, and in an effort to provide more information to broadcasters in connection with their decisions regarding participation in the broadcast Incentive Auction, Chairman Wheeler made several announcements, including releasing an updated estimated timeline of FCC actions that will precede and follow the auction. Our previously distributed transmittal is attached. On June 25, the FCC announced that Andrew Woelfling, the chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), was appointed as the deputy director in the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs. According to the news release, his “major areas of legislative and policy focus have included consumer protection, the upcoming 600 MHz broadcast incentive auction, and federal spectrum policy.” On June 20, the FCC’s OET released a Public Notice seeking to supplement the record in the Incentive Auction proceeding with comments on OET’s measurements of LTE interference to DTV receivers. OET sought comment on the measurements and observations that are discussed in this OET report. Specifically, it asks whether these measurements – along with measurements performed by CEA and filed in the docket – support some of the technical components of the previously issued January, 2014 Public Notice. It also seeks comment on the relevance of the measurements associated with the two oldest models of TV receivers. Comments were due by July 11, 2014. At a FCBA event on June 16, the chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, Gary Epstein, previewed the release of the auction timeline (noted above in Chairman Wheeler’s June 25 blog post). At the event, FCC officials discussed a number of steps that should be completed prior to the auction, including a PN on auction procedures and proceedings on the DE rules and the impact of the incentive auction on LPTV and TV translators. Epstein noted that most of the proceedings must be completed prior to the auction, but “[s]ome maybe can lag a little bit, like wireless microphones, but our schedule is to get them all done before the auction.” Howard Symons, the Task Force’s vice chairman, said the agency will release soon pricing data that broadcasters have sought. On June 11, the Media Bureau announced a freeze on the filing of applications for digital replacement translator (“DRT”) stations and displacement applications for LPTV, TV translator, and Class A television stations. During the freeze, the Media Bureau will consider waiver requests by LPTV and TV translator stations that wish to submit a displacement application demonstrating that they are causing or receiving “new actual” interference to or from a full power television station. If you need clarification on these issues, or have a regulatory question of a general interest you would like to know more about, just give GAB a call at 770-395-7200 and we'll try to help.