Broadcaster Lawsuit Could Delay FCC Wireless Spectrum Auction
"The FCC has worked tirelessly with stakeholders and broadcasters to set up a successful incentive auction that preserves the coverage area of broadcasters, while meeting Congress’ goal of opening up more wireless broadband spectrum that will lead to exciting new innovations, services and jobs," Shapiro's statement said. The FCC, meanwhile, contends that its procedures for determining how to handle spectrum repackaging is being done in a way that's fair to broadcasters. "We are confident that the Report and Order fulfills the mandates established by Congress on this complex matter," an FCC spokesperson told eWEEK. The problem here is revealed when you look at the calendar. The timeframe usually given for the beginning of the FCC spectrum auction process is mid-2015, which is about nine months away. But now that NAB has sued, any substantive action will have to be put on hold until arguments are heard in court and that could easily take at least several months. But just opening of arguments won't solve the problem for the FCC. Once the lawyers for all sides have their say, and that could easily take a month or so, then the FCC has to implement any changes. By now it's already 2015.If the NAB loses, then you can expect an appeal, which will have the same effect of distracting the FCC staff away from planning for the auction. A delay in the spectrum auction is looking more likely with each passing day. While this may look on the surface that it's about a bunch of big broadcasting companies complaining about how the FCC is treating them, the fact is that the broadcasters have legitimate concerns. As the NAB says in its statements, there's a real chance that some television broadcasters might find themselves being forced into the reverse auction or be "packaged" into spectrum oblivion. In addition, it looks as if the broadcasters are raising valid concern when they say that the FCC has changed the methodology for determining whether a broadcaster is being hurt has to a methodology that was not what they agreed to when the idea of the spectrum auction was first floated. In addition, the worry that the resulting losses to the broadcasting companies may exceed the size of the fund designed to cover their costs is also real—if only because the costs estimates developed by Congress are rarely accurate. While there's no question that the wireless industry needs additional spectrum, the fact is that spectrum is a scarce resource. Putting the broadcasting industry out of business, or even putting them at a disadvantage, really isn't the way to manage and allocate the spectrum.
If the court takes any action besides dismissing the NAB's suit, the FCC staff will be involved one way or the other. This is the same staff that would otherwise be getting ready for the auctions and in planning the repackaging of spectrum.