FCC chairman Tom Wheeler sent out a statement effectively announcing the start of the much anticipated incentive auction.
Wheeler told broadcasters they have until 6 p.m. to get their initial bid commitments in, signaling the start of the auction.
The incentive auction allows wireless companies to bid on new licenses to use broadcast spectrum put up for sale by broadcasters for a share of the profits from the sale of their airwaves.
“By making valuable ‘low-band’ airwaves available for wireless broadband,” promises the FCC on its website. “The incentive auction will benefit consumers by easing congestion on wireless networks, laying the groundwork for “fifth generation” (5G) wireless services and applications, and spurring job creation and economic growth.”
The auction is expected to change the face of broadcasting in the U.S. With less broadcast spectrum to go around, stations who are not participating may be forced to move channels or may be left without spectrum in order to free up “contiguous blocks of spectrum” for wireless companies.
Some say minority broadcasters will be hurt most, since low power stations have a more diverse ownership. Low power stations aren’t eligible for federal funds to help make the necessary changes to move channels after the spectrum is repacked.
Here is the text of what Wheeler said:
“In just a few hours, we mark the beginning of the world’s first Incentive Auction, which will align the use of the public airwaves to meet America’s 21st century spectrum needs. If broadband Internet service is an engine for economic growth, then mobile broadband has been its booster rocket, creating a platform for innovation, competition and new markets. The Incentive Auction promises to free up more capacity to meet Americans’ skyrocketing demand for wireless data while preserving the valuable service that broadcast TV stations provide to their communities.”
“As we get on with the business of conducting the auction, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the many people whose leadership helped get it off the ground. Thanks to Congress, which had the foresight to authorize this auction. Thanks to my predecessors and colleagues here at the Commission for their thoughtful deliberation on all of the key decisions made during the last four years. And my sincere thanks to the men and women of our world-class Incentive Auction team – today is a testament to the great work they do every day in service to the American people.”