Spectrum auction on track despite corrections

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will not delay a major airwave auction scheduled for next year after announcing a number of corrections to the opening bid prices television stations can reap if they sell their broadcast licenses. 

The revisions announced Thursday will not change the March 29 start date for the first-of-its-kind incentive auction, in which broadcasters will be encouraged to sell off their spectrum to make room for the country's increasing demand for mobile phones and other connected devices. 


Among the corrections is one involving the station with the highest bid price of the auction. The FCC originally determined that WCBS-TV in New York was the most coveted, setting an opening bid price of $900 million. 

But because of a change that extends station WNJU to the World Trade Center address, that station has now taken over the top spot with an opening bid price of $900 million.

The price for WCBS is now about $889 million. 

The initial prices were set last month. Because of the update Thursday, broadcasters will now have an extra month to decide whether to participate in the auction. Similarly, cellphone carriers will get an extra month to decide if they want to participate as well. 

The opening prices are meant to entice broadcasters into giving up their caches of spectrum. They are given the option to move entirely off the air, which would command a high price. Broadcasters who do not want to go off the air could sell for lower prices and move to a different band of spectrum.

The auction is set to take place in multiple parts. The FCC will hold a “reverse auction” with broadcasters to see what price they would demand for their spectrum rights. The agency will then hold an auction with wireless companies to purchase those rights.

The auction was originally scheduled for this year but was pushed back amid a seperate court battle. 

The Congressional Budget Office has said the auction could net the government between $10 billion and $40 billion. A separate spectrum auction that ended earlier this year netted about $41 billion.