It’s time for TV stations to decide about the spectrum auction

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All television stations in the U.S. must decide Monday whether they’ll participate in the FCC’s spectrum auction.

Stations have 32 hours — from 10 a.m. Monday until 6 p.m. Tuesday EDT — to let the FCC know.

“A station’s filing will be a commitment to vacate the UHF band at the opening price,” said Michael Alcamo, president of M.C. Alcamo & Co., an investment banking firm that advised licensees in 2015 regarding the auction. “This process enables the FCC to tangibly gauge broadcaster interest, and set the clearing target for Stage 1 of the auction.”

Alcamo recommends that licensees complete their submissions by 3 p.m. today in case questions arise that the commission needs to answer.

The FCC should announce the clearing target within a few weeks, according to a commission spokesperson. It will then schedule mock auctions to familiarize stations with the bidding procedure, and it will set a date for first bidding rounds.

The commission is looking to clear broadcast spectrum for use by wireless providers. Stations in the first phase, a reverse auction, may enter into channel-sharing agreements, transition from the UHF to VHF band, move to a lower VHF channel if already on VHF, or relinquish all spectrum and stop broadcasting. Stations stand to receive varying amounts of cash for each option.

The second phase, a forward auction in which wireless firms bid on the broadcast spectrum, will yield around $47.5 billion, according to estimates from Alcamo’s firm. Congress has mandated that profits from the auction go into the U.S. Treasury to help pay down the national debt.

Check out our guide to the spectrum auction for more about the process and its eventual impact.

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