Articles Posted in Spectrum

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In a long-anticipated move towards commencement of the spectrum auction, the FCC today released a Public Notice and related Appendix providing an initial clearing target of 126 Megahertz of spectrum in what is currently the broadcast television band. The 126 MHz figure represents the targeted amount of spectrum to be repurposed from broadcast television to mobile wireless uses.  The FCC also announced that bidding in the reverse auction will commence on May 31, 2016.

The 126 MHz target is the highest the FCC was contemplating, and indicates that a large number of television stations have chosen to participate in the auction.  By setting a high clearing target, the FCC is maximizing the amount of broadcast spectrum purchased, but increasing the risk that if there is insufficient interest in the forward auction for this amount of spectrum (at the prices the FCC needs to pay selling broadcasters and cover other costs), the auction may have to be redone with a lower clearing target.

In the forward auction, the FCC will offer 10 paired blocks of spectrum, each block comprised of 10 MHz, to mobile wireless bidders.  The remaining 26 MHz of spectrum to be cleared will be used for guard band and duplex gap purposes; i.e., to protect adjacent users from interference.  If the auction is completed with the 126 MHz clearing target, the post-auction television broadcast band will consist of VHF channels 2-13 and UHF channels 14-29.  The process of repacking stations into channels 2-29 would commence following completion of the auction, and is estimated by the FCC to take approximately three years, although many have questioned whether that is sufficient time for the repack.

With the release of the clearing target information, the FCC has locked in all of the following dates for auction-related events:

May 4, 2016, noon:  Date by which each television broadcast licensee that made an initial commitment in the reverse auction must receive a third confidential status letter from the FCC.  That letter will inform the applicant whether its station(s) will be qualified to participate in the reverse auction.  Applicants who have not received this letter by noon (Eastern Time) on May 4 should contact the FCC Auctions Hotline at (717)338-2868.

May 5, 2016: FCC Incentive Auction Reverse Auction Bidding System User Guide available on Auctions webpage.

May 18, 2016:  Online Bidding Tutorial available on Auctions webpage.

May 23, 2016, 10 a.m.:  Bidding Preview Period begins.

May 24, 2016, 10 a.m.:  Clock Phase Workshop.

May 24, 2016, 6 p.m.:  Bidding Review Period ends.

May 25, 2016, 10 a.m.:  Mock Auction Bidding Round 1.  Additional Mock Auction Rounds occur throughout May 25 and May 26.

May 31, 2016:  Bidding in the reverse auction commences for qualified applicants, with a single round of bidding on May 31 and June 1, and two rounds per day starting on June 2.

While it is unclear how many rounds of bidding will be required before the auction closes, or whether the 126 MHz target might lead to a repeat of the reverse auction, today’s news brings a palpable sense that the auction has really begun.  How successful the auction will be for broadcasters, mobile wireless companies, and the FCC will be a developing story.  Stay tuned for more updates.

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Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:

  • Noncommercial FM Broadcaster Fined $10,000 for Public Inspection File Violations
  • TV Licensee Faces $20,000 Fine for Untimely Filing of 16 Children’s TV Programming Reports
  • Man Agrees to $2,360 Fine for Using GPS Jamming Device at Newark Airport

FCC Refuses to Take Pity on “Mom and Pop” FM Public Broadcaster With Public Inspection File Violations

The FCC’s Media Bureau denied a New York noncommercial FM licensee’s Petition for Reconsideration of a March 2015 Forfeiture Order, affirming a $10,000 fine against the licensee for failing to place 13 Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists in the station’s public inspection file.

Section 73.3527 of the FCC’s Rules requires noncommercial educational licensees to maintain a public inspection file containing specific types of information related to station operations. Among the materials required for inclusion in the file are the station’s Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, which must be retained until final Commission action on the station’s next license renewal application. Issues/Program Lists detail programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding quarter.

In February 2014, the licensee filed an application for renewal of the station’s license, which it had acquired from a university in 2010 after the university decided to defund the station. In the application, the licensee admitted that the station’s public inspection file was missing 13 Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, commencing with the licensee’s acquisition of the station in 2010.

In March 2015, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in the amount of $10,000, the base fine for a public inspection file violation. The licensee filed a Petition for Reconsideration, urging the FCC to withdraw the fine. While the licensee did not dispute the violations, it explained that it had a history of compliance with the FCC’s rules, and that it was the public radio equivalent of a “mom-and-pop-operation.” It further explained that it only had several employees and volunteers, including an unpaid manager, and was under constant financial strain.

In response, the FCC contacted the station on three separate occasions in 2015 to request that the licensee provide documentation supporting its claim of financial hardship. After receiving no response to these requests, the FCC chose not to reduce the fine based on financial hardship when it issued the resulting Forfeiture Order. In addition, the FCC chose not to reduce the fine based on the station’s history of compliance with the rules because of the “extensive” nature of the violations. Ultimately, however, the FCC stated that it would grant the license renewal application upon the conclusion of the forfeiture proceeding if “there are no issues other than the violations discussed here that would preclude grant of the application.”

Sour Sixteen: Failing to Timely File 16 Children’s TV Programming Reports Nets Proposed $20,000 Fine

A Texas TV licensee is facing a $20,000 fine for failing to timely file sixteen Children’s Television Programming Reports.

Section 73.3526 of the FCC’s Rules requires each commercial broadcast licensee to maintain a public inspection file containing specific information related to station operations. Subsection 73.3526(e)(11)(iii) requires a commercial licensee to prepare and place in its public inspection file a Children’s Television Programming Report for each calendar quarter. The report sets forth the efforts the station made during that quarter and has planned for the next quarter to serve the educational and informational needs of children. Licensees are required to file the reports with the FCC and place them in their public files by the tenth day of the month following the quarter. Continue reading →

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It’s not just high school seniors who should be waiting by the mailbox for a thick package to arrive this coming week.  All television stations that filed a Form 177 application in Auction 1001 should be looking for their Second Confidential Status Letter between today and March 22nd.  The FCC has released a Public Notice stating that the letters have now been mailed to auction applicants.

THE SECOND CONFIDENTIAL STATUS LETTER REQUIRES A SIGNATURE

The Second Confidential Status Letter was sent to the contact person for each applicant.  Someone must be available to sign for the package.  It does not have to be the contact person, but applicants will want to be sure someone is available at the address used in their Form 177 to sign for the package.

APPLICANTS THAT DO NOT RECEIVE THEIR LETTER BY NOON ET ON MARCH 22ND MUST CONTACT THE AUCTIONS HOTLINE BY TELEPHONE

The Second Confidential Status Letter will inform applicants as to whether their Form 177 applications have been deemed complete.  Those applicants whose applications are deemed complete with respect to at least one selected station will receive the SecurID tokens for each of the applicants’ authorized bidders.  To participate in the auction, the applicant will need the SecurID token, the FCC-assigned Username associated with that token, and the password associated with that licensee’s Federal Registration Number.  Note that group owners that hold licenses in multiple licensees will receive a token and Username for each licensee and will have to sign in to the auction system separately for each licensee.

The Second Confidential Status Letter will also provide applicants with instructions for signing in to the auction online system and submitting their Initial Commitment by the deadline of 6:00 p.m. ET on March 29, 2016.  As we have previously written, there will be a preview period beginning at 10:00 a.m. on March 24, 2016.  All applicants should sign in to the system during the preview period to familiarize themselves with the system.

The FCC held a Workshop on March 11th to educate applicants about the Initial Commitment process.  The presentation is available for review here.  In the Initial Commitment, applicants will have the opportunity to designate their preferred relinquishment option from among the relinquishment option(s) they selected on their Form 177.  Any applicant that selects the “Go Off Air” option will be accommodated, unless the FCC determines that their station is not needed.  Stations that select one of the options to move to the High VHF or Low VHF band will also have the ability to select one or more “fall back” options.

It is important for applicants to understand their Initial Commitment options.  Once the Initial Commitment window closes, the FCC will take several weeks to recalculate its spectrum clearing targets.  The FCC will then send applicants a Final Confidential Status Letter which will advise them whether their station is needed in the auction (recall that when the FCC released the opening bids, it identified some stations that would not be needed in the auction because its analysis showed those stations will always have a channel to repack to, regardless of the elections made by other broadcasters).  Stations previously deemed needed could be recategorized as not needed based on the information the FCC receives in the Initial Commitments.

In addition, any station that selects the move to High VHF or Low VHF band in the Initial Commitment window will be informed whether that selection can be accommodated.  If a station making a VHF selection cannot be accommodated because of the limited number of channels available in that band, the station will be repacked in its original band and not be eligible to participate in the auction unless the station has selected a “fall back” option that can be accommodated.  As noted, the “Go Off Air” option can always be accommodated unless the station is deemed not needed.

The learning curve for the Broadcast Incentive Auction is steep.  Applicants should take advantage of the educational materials that the FCC has released thus far, and keep a sharp eye out for the arrival of the Second Confidential Status Letter.

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Today, the FCC posted to the Auction 1001 website the Reverse Auction Initial Commitment User Guide and Online Tutorial.  Broadcasters that submitted an FCC Form 177 to participate in the Reverse Auction should review these materials to gain a better understanding of how the system will work so that they are prepared to participate when the Initial Commitment Window opens.  The Tutorial is easy to use, and you can pause it as needed to study and better understand the materials.  The User Guide is largely duplicative, but does contain important information such as technical requirements for using the system and contact information for help troubleshooting problems.

A few informational highlights include:

Important Dates:

  • March 28, 2016 10am ET – March 29, 2016 6pm ET: The Initial Commitment Window – a total of 32 hours – during which broadcasters must file their Initial Commitments. The Initial Commitment may be changed until the close of the window, but if no commitment is made by the close of the window, the station will be excluded from the auction and repacked in its pre-auction band.
  • March 24, 2016 10am ET – March 28, 2016 9:59am ET: The Initial Commitment Preview Period – a four-day period during which all participating stations are encouraged to log into the system, set their PINs, and view the list of stations and Relinquishment Options available to them.

What to Do in the Preview Period:  During the Preview Period, broadcasters should log in to the system and familiarize themselves with it. You will understand why this is important as you read through the paragraph below.

To log in to the system for the first time, each authorized bidder must activate their FCC-supplied RSA token (which displays a code randomly generated every 60 seconds) and select a PIN. To do so, select the “Click here for the login screen” link, enter the FCC-assigned Username for the authorized bidder logging in, the password associated with the FRN listed on the licensee’s Form 177, and the current code displayed on the FCC-supplied RSA token.  Click the Log In button.  Next, choose a 4-8 digit PIN, enter it twice in the fields provided, and click the Continue button.  There is a limited time to complete this step, with the remaining time shown on the screen.  On the next screen, type in the PIN you selected and the code shown on the RSA token.  This code cannot be the same as the one used on the prior screen.  If that code is still showing (because you have proceeded through these steps in less than 60 seconds), wait for the next code to appear.  Click the Continue button.

Once these steps are completed, each authorized bidder will log in by entering the bidder’s FCC-assigned Username, the password associated with the licensee’s FRN, the PIN selected in the step above, and the current code shown on the RSA token assigned to that bidder. Multiple bidders for a licensee can be logged into the system at the same time, but only one will be able to place bids at a time.

Overview of the System:  Once logged in, the broadcaster will see three options displayed on a navigation bar to the left of the screen: Make Commitment, Messages, and Station Info.  In addition, clocks showing the current date and time as well as the countdown to the opening of the Initial Commitment Window are displayed.

Make Commitment:  When clicking on this tab, the broadcaster will see its station or stations, if they have been deemed eligible to participate.  The Preferred Relinquishment option the broadcaster selected in its Form 177 (and the associated opening bid) will appear in a column to the right of the call sign.  To choose this Relinquishment Option as the station’s Initial Commitment, the broadcaster need only click the “Submit” button and will then see a green checkmark appear.  If the station has additional options available to it based on its frequency band and the selections the station made in its Form 177, these are available from a dropdown menu under the Preferred Relinquishment option.  As noted above, the FCC indicates that the choice the station makes from among these options can be changed until the end of the Initial Commitment Window.  Stations that no longer wish to participate in the auction will select the “Decline Commitments” option from the dropdown menu.

If the broadcaster chooses either the Move to a High VHF channel or Move to a Low VHF channel option as its Preferred Relinquishment choice, a window will open advising that the system will attempt to fulfill this choice, but that because of limited channels in the VHF band, this option is not guaranteed. These stations will be given fallback options, if available to them based on their Form 177 choices, and the option to decline fallback options.  It is important to understand the impact of selecting a VHF band option.  If the choice can be accommodated, it will be.  If the option cannot be accommodated, the station will be eliminated from the auction and repacked in its current band, unless one or more fallback options has been selected.

Messages:  In this section, FCC staff can communicate with the licensee and the licensee can communicate with FCC staff.  All authorized bidders for a station can see messages sent by that station’s other authorized bidders as long as they are logged into the system.

Station Info: This section lists all of the licensee’s stations that are eligible to participate in the auction, along with the Relinquishment Option(s) available to each station based on its frequency band and the station’s selections in its Form 177.  This is the only section that the broadcaster can see during the Preview Period.

The FCC has also announced an Initial Commitment Window Workshop to take place on March 11, 2016 from 10am – 1pm ET.  Participants can attend in person or watch online remotely, and the FCC’s staff highly recommends those interested in participating in the reverse auction also participate in the Workshop.  The FCC has said that additional tutorials and resources for participation in the next stages of the auction will be made available to licensees at a later date.  Those, however, will only be useful to broadcasters that successfully make their Initial Commitment, so time to open the Tutorial and start studying.

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The FCC today released a Public Notice with instructions for filing Form 177, the application for licensees of full-power and Class A TV stations to participate in the reverse auction. As a reminder, the FCC recently extended the application filing deadline, so the filing window now begins at noon Eastern Time on December 8, 2015 and runs until 6 p.m. Eastern Time on January 12, 2016. The auction itself, however, is still on track to begin March 29, 2016.

To access Form 177, applicants must use their FRN and associated password to log into the Auction System, accessible at http://auctions.fcc.gov/ (primary location) or http://auctions2.fcc.gov/ (secondary location).  As detailed in Attachment 1 to the Public Notice, the Form requires applicants to (i) provide, among other things, basic information about their legal classification, contact information, and authorized bidders; (ii) identify one or more relinquishment options for each station; (iii) disclose information about their ownership structure; and (iv) make certain certifications.

If an applicant has entered into an executed channel sharing agreement as a sharee for the station(s) at issue, the applicant must upload at least two channel sharing attachments before submitting the application: (i) a channel sharer certification, and (ii) an unredacted copy of the executed channel sharing agreement. A Channel Sharer Certification for full-power station sharers is attached to the Public Notice as Attachment 2, and one for Class A station sharers is included as Attachment 3.

The Auction System will display both “error” and “warning” messages for each section of the Form prior to allowing an applicant to file. While the Form cannot be submitted with an uncorrected error message, the Auction System will allow applicants to proceed to the Certify & Submit screen even if the application has a warning message. The FCC cautions that applicants should not rely on their ability to certify and submit an application with a warning message as evidence that the FCC has approved the submission, and reminds applicants that the automated check may not catch all errors.

The FCC will allow you to make as many changes as you’d like to an application during the filing window, and will not consider information in your application until you click the CERTIFY & SUBMIT button.  You can even withdraw a previously submitted application up until the close of the filing window.  So while you should strive to get it right the first time, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (until 6 p.m. Eastern Time January 12)!  And, if 22 pages of instructions aren’t helpful enough, you may want to check out the FCC’s reverse auction tutorial regarding the pre-auction process, which will be available online tomorrow, November 20, 2015 on the Auction 1001 website.

 

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With little fanfare, the FCC today released a Public Notice changing the deadline for television stations to file Form 177 to participate in the spectrum auction.  The original filing window had run from December 1 to December 18.  The newly-announced window will run from 12:00 noon Eastern Time on December 8, 2015 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time on January 12, 2016.  This change not only extends the time for filing Form 177, but has the incidental (and probably more important) effect of extending the time for negotiating and executing pre-auction channel sharing agreements between stations.

The reason for the change is that the FCC previously indicated broadcasters would have a minimum of sixty days after release of the final opening bids to file their Form 177.  Today’s Public Notice announced that the FCC has recalculated coverage areas and other repacking data for a small number of stations, resulting in a change to those stations’ opening bids.  With the release of those new opening bids, the FCC felt obligated to extend the Form 177 filing deadline to ensure all broadcasters have sixty days to evaluate whether to participate in the auction in light of the recalculated opening bids.

In today’s Public Notice, the FCC indicated it did not expect this extension to delay the auction’s scheduled start date of “March 29, 2015” — but, barring any developments in time travel, we’ll presume they meant to say 2016.  For broadcasters frantically negotiating channel sharing agreements, the delay will be a welcome one.

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October has come and gone, and now the season is upon us—filing season, that is!  Though winter is coming, December will be a hot month for radio and television FCC filings. Failure to meet any of these filing deadlines could result in fines or lost opportunities, putting a real damper on the holidays.  With that in mind, we’ve compiled a summary of some of the major upcoming filing obligations and deadlines.

  • December 1: Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Reports (FCC Form 2100 Schedule G)

Commercial television, digital Class A television, and digital LPTV stations must electronically file by December 1, 2015 FCC Form 2100 Schedule G, the Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Report for Commercial Digital Television Stations, regardless of whether they have received any income from transmitting ancillary or supplementary services. If a digital station provided ancillary or supplementary services during the 12-month time period ending September 30, 2015, and received compensation for doing so, that station is required to pay to the FCC five percent of the gross revenue from such services concurrently with the filing of Form 2100 Schedule G.

Note that this Report was formerly known as FCC Form 317.  With the introduction of the FCC’s new Licensing and Management System, it is now FCC Form 2100 Schedule G.

For a more detailed summery of this filing requirement, you can review our Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Report Client Advisory.

  • December 1: Annual EEO Public File Reports for AL, CO, CT, GA, MA, ME, MN, MT, ND, NH, RI, SD, and VT

Station Employment Units (“SEUs”) that have five or more full-time employees and are comprised of radio and/or television stations licensed to communities in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, or Vermont must by this date place in their public inspection file and post on their station website a report regarding station compliance with the FCC’s EEO Rule during the period December 1, 2014 through November 30, 2015.

December 1 is also the mid-point in the license renewal term of radio stations licensed to communities in Alabama and Georgia; therefore, by this date radio SEUs with 11 or more full-time employees in these states must electronically file the FCC Form 397 Broadcast Mid-Term Report along with copies of the SEU’s two most recent Annual EEO Public File Reports.

We’ve prepared an Annual EEO Public File Report Client Advisory with more information regarding these obligations.

  • December 1:  Biennial Ownership Reports for Noncommercial  Stations in AL, CO, CT, GA, MA, ME, MN, MT, ND, NH, RI, SD, and VT (FCC Form 323-E)

In addition to their Annual EEO Public File Reports, noncommercial television stations licensed to communities in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota, and noncommercial radio stations licensed to communities in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont (other than sole proprietorships or partnerships composed entirely of natural persons) must electronically file by December 1, 2015 their biennial ownership reports on FCC Form 323-E, unless they have consolidated this filing date with that of other commonly owned stations licensed to communities in other states. The FCC Form 323-E does not require a filing fee.

Note that the Commission’s August 6, 2015 Order extending the biennial ownership report filing deadline for commercial television and radio stations to December 2 does not apply to these Form 323-E filings for noncommercial stations.

Our Noncommercial Station Biennial Ownership Report Client Advisory has more information on this filing requirement.

  • December 2: Biennial Ownership Reports for Commercial Stations (FCC Form 323)

All commercial radio, full-power television, low-power television, and Class A television stations must electronically file by December 2, 2015 their biennial ownership reports on FCC Form 323 and pay the required FCC filing fee. This year, the fee is $65.00 per station. As a reminder, the FCC extended the usual November filing deadline to December through an Order released this summer, giving commercial licensees an additional month to prepare their reports while maintaining the “as of” reporting date of October 1, 2015.

For a more detailed summary of this filing requirement, check out our Commercial Station Biennial Ownership Report Client Advisory.

  • December 18: Spectrum Auction Applications (FCC Form 177)

As we posted last month, the FCC released its Auction Application Procedures Public Notice, announcing the filing window and application procedures to be used for broadcast stations wishing to participate in the spectrum auction. The auction application form, FCC Form 177, must be filed by each licensee interested in participating in the auction.  The application filing window opens at 12 p.m. Eastern Time on December 1, 2015 and runs until 6 p.m. Eastern Time on December 18, 2015.

After the December 18 deadline for filing Form 177, (1) no major changes may be made to the application (e.g., changing the bid options or licenses offered in the auction, or, except in certain circumstances, making major ownership changes), and (2) the Form 177 must be updated within five days of the applicant learning that information in the form is no longer accurate.

FCC staff will send letters to individual applicants indicating that the applicant’s form is (1) complete, (2) rejected, or (3) incomplete or deficient in a minor way that may be corrected. In the case of the third option, the letter will specify a deadline for submitting a corrected application, and applications that are not corrected by that time will be dismissed with no opportunity to refile.

With so many FCC deadlines stacking up in December, we recommend broadcasters start preparing their reports and applications sooner rather than later.  As Dr. Seuss reminded us:

How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

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The FCC today announced the application procedures to be used for broadcast stations wishing to participate in the spectrum auction, as well as application procedures for those wishing to purchase that spectrum in the forward auction.  Of particular interest to broadcast stations wishing to participate in the reverse auction is the announcement that the window for filing those auction applications will run from 12 noon Eastern Time on December 1, 2015 to 6pm Eastern Time on December 18, 2015.

Continue reading →

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The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) today released the final version of its TVStudy software, which calculates TV station coverage areas for use in the spectrum auction and repacking.  The software can be accessed here.

In addition, pursuant to an earlier order of the FCC directing the OET to “release a detailed summary of baseline coverage area and population served by each television station to be protected in the repacking process,” the OET today released a 65 page table laying out its coverage area calculations for TV stations across the country using the final version of the TVStudy software.

The table includes baseline data for each station’s noise-limited, terrain-limited, and interference-free coverage areas and population served.  In an accompanying Public Notice, the OET indicated that the “noise-limited data reflects the coverage area within the station’s contour that will be replicated and the interference-free population data reflects the population served by the station that will be protected from interference” in the repacking.

The Public Notice cautions “that the list of stations included in the baseline data released today is not the final list of stations eligible for repacking protection” (which was addressed in an earlier Public Notice), and that “the baseline data released today reflects the current information in the Commission’s databases and is subject to update based on licensees’ Pre-Auction Technical Certifications,” which are due on July 9, 2015.

The FCC is therefore requesting comments on the baseline data, and has set a July 30, 2015 deadline for those comments.  Once it has had an opportunity to consider them, “OET will release the final baseline data to be used for purposes of the incentive auction and the repacking process well in advance of the auction. The final baseline data will contain the final list of eligible stations based on corrections from any ‘Petition for Eligible Entity Status’ and any corrected data from the Pre-Auction Technical Certifications.”

In addition to making sure they get their Pre-Auction Technical Certifications on file with the FCC by the July 9th deadline, stations should examine today’s baseline data for any surprises or anomalies that they will want to address in their comments.  As the FCC’s auction and repacking plans firm up, TV broadcasters will want to make sure to catch any mistakes in their stations’ data before those errors become ingrained in the Commission’s auction and repacking planning.

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Today, the FCC released a Public Notice with a 45-page Appendix listing all full-power and Class A television stations eligible to participate in the reverse auction and receive protection in the repacking process. Licensees should immediately review the Appendix to ensure their station has been included and to determine whether the appropriate authorization for their facility has been listed for auction participation and protection in the repacking. Any station that believes it has been wrongly omitted from the Appendix must file a Petition for Eligible Entity Status by July 9, 2015.

In addition, the Public Notice announces that Form 2100, Schedule 381, the Pre-Auction Technical Certification Form, must also be filed by July 9, 2015. This form requires that the licensee review the station’s authorization listed in the Appendix, as well as the underlying technical information contained in the FCC’s database, and certify whether that information is correct. If it is not, the licensee must state in the form whether the discrepancy is the result of a Commission error or of the licensee operating at variance from its authorization.

If the discrepancy is due to an error by the FCC in its records, the corrected facilities will be used by the Commission for participation in the reverse auction and protection in the repacking process. Where the discrepancy is due to the licensee operating at variance, the licensee must file the appropriate applications to correct that information in the FCC’s database.  Those corrected parameters will not, however, be used for participation in the reverse auction or protection in the repacking process.

As we have written previously, Schedule 381 requests a great deal of information, such as the year of the last structural analysis of the station’s antenna structure and the standard under which that analysis was conducted; whether the station’s antenna is shared with another station; the antenna’s frequency range if it is capable of operating over multiple channels; and the make, model number and maximum power output capacity of the station’s transmitter.

The Public Notice states that if a licensee does not file a Schedule 381, the FCC will assume that the information in the station’s authorization and in the FCC’s database is correct. However, in that circumstance, the Commission will not have the same information regarding that station as it has for stations that did file the Schedule 381, so it is unclear at this time how the FCC will handle that situation.

The FCC will ultimately release a detailed summary of the baseline coverage and population served by each station eligible for participation in the auction and protection in the repacking process. That summary will reflect the information submitted in the Schedule 381, including corrections of discrepancies resulting from FCC errors, along with any changes made as a result of successful Petitions for Eligible Entity Status.

With today’s Public Notice, the FCC moves the spectrum auction a significant step closer to reality.