Court denies NAB challenge to aspects of spectrum auction

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A petition challenging elements of the upcoming spectrum auction was turned down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The National Association of Broadcasters filed the petition in August 2014, contending the auction would force broadcasters to pay for tower relocation and other expenses after the spectrum is repacked. NAB also protested the methodology used for a repacking study.

The decision denied the petition for review and upheld the FCC’s orders. A petition filed by Sinclair Broadcast Group on related technical issues was also denied.

“We are gratified that the court agrees with the commission’s balanced, market-based approach to freeing up more valuable spectrum for innovative wireless broadband services,” said FCC Chair Tom Wheeler in a statement. “This decision provides the commission and all stakeholders with the certainty necessary to proceed apace toward a successful auction in the first quarter of next year.”

The voluntary spectrum auction, mandated by Congress to free broadcast bandwidth for use by mobile devices, is scheduled to begin in mid-2016. Television station executives must decide whether to relinquish all spectrum, potentially worth millions of dollars; give up half of their bandwidth and share channels with other stations; switch from UHF to a lesser-quality VHF signal; or not participate.