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FCC eyes March 2016 for airwaves auction

FCC eyes March 2016 for airwaves auction

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering March 29, 2016 as the start date for a major auction of wireless airwaves.

The agency's five commissioners are considering an item entitled “Broadcast Incentive Auction to Begin March 29, 2016; Procedures for Competitive Bidding in Auction 1000, Including Initial Clearing Target Determination, Qualifying to Bid, and Bidding in Auctions 1001 (Reverse) and 1002 (Forward).”

The tentative start date could still be changed, though, before the commission votes.

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The date was first reported by FierceWireless. A spokesman for the group within the FCC responsible for running the auction had no further comment.

Starting the auction on that date would allow FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to make good on his pledge to hold it in the first quarter of 2016. The quarter ends on March 31, two days after the planned start date.

Wheeler has said that the auction would be held on schedule despite his decision last week to push back the commission's vote on auction rules to its August meeting.

“I believe that even with this delay we will be able to stay on course for the first quarter of 2016,” Wheeler said in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

The auction will be the first of its kind, with the commission buying spectrum from broadcasters and reselling it to wireless providers.

Wireless spectrum — the invisible airwaves that carry radio signals — has become a critical resource as Americans have adopted data-consuming smartphones. An auction that closed earlier this year netted the government more than $44 billion.