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The FCC’s Spectrum Incentive Auction NPRM: A Condensed and Abridged Version

In my last post, I discussed the FCC’s mammoth NPRM asking for public comment on an immense number of issues relating to the planned spectrum incentive auctions. In particular, I noted the challenges faced by both the FCC and commenters in trying to cover so much ground on such complex issues in such a short time. One of the emails I received in response to that post was from an old pro in the broadcast industry who wrote that “I’ve been reviewing the NPRM for 12 days and haven’t finished yet!”
Having heard that message from a number of people, the importance of the NPRM to a great many segments of the communications industry, and the inability of many of our clients to dedicate several weeks to perusing the NPRM, Paul Cicelski and I have drafted a highly condensed summary of the NPRM in a Pillsbury Client Advisory that may be found here. In condensing it, we were mindful of the quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein, that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” While an entirely sensible approach, it would have abbreviated the 205-page NPRM (including attachments) only marginally. So instead, we threw that bit of advice out the window and condensed our summary down to five pages, giving us an industry-leading 41:1 compression ratio.

As a result, the Advisory cannot contain the level of detail found in the NPRM itself (that’s how you cut out 200 pages!), but our hope is that it will make the NPRM’s content accessible to a much broader audience, particularly the many who will ultimately be affected by the FCC’s various auction and repacking proposals. In addition to providing a relatively painless way for those interested to learn more about this proceeding, the Advisory should provide a road map for parties seeking to identify the issues that will most greatly affect them so that they can focus their attention on those specific aspects of the NPRM when preparing comments for the FCC.

Given that the volume of issues to be addressed in the NPRM is so great, and there is literally no way any individual party could cover them all, the best chance for a well-informed outcome in this proceeding is for the FCC to hear from a large number of commenters who, cumulatively, will hopefully touch on most of the key issues in their comments and reply comments. As a reminder, the comment deadline is December 21, 2012, with reply comments due on February 19, 2013. Whether a potential seller in the reverse spectrum auction, a potential buyer in the forward auction, or a television bystander that may be buffeted by the winds of repacking, now is the time to step up and make your voice heard, rather than merely grumbling over the next several years about how the process is unfolding.