FCC Releases Spectrum Auction User Guide and Online Tutorial for March 28-29 Initial Commitment Window
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:
- 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.