The FCC posted a useful (11-page) summary that explains the upcoming television spectrum auction with a reasonable level of detail.
Why is the FCC beginning to shut down large amounts of television spectrum? Here’s why:
“In key areas, the United States leads the world in wireless infrastructure and
innovation. However, our successes in building a first-class wireless industry have also
created our greatest challenges; the skyrocketing usage of our wireless networks is
dramatically increasing demands on both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The mobile
wireless landscape is undergoing a transformation as mobile broadband networks are
emerging not only as the foundation for communications services in the 21st Century,
but also as the infrastructure supporting economic growth and innovation in such wide-
ranging areas as entertainment, health care, public safety, education, and social service.
Like the railroads in the 19th Century, and the electrical grid in the 20th Century, our
mobile broadband networks are primary economic engines for our country. Spectrum is
a critical building block for these networks.”
Here’s more about the law that sets this process in motion:
“Congress, in passing the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012
(“Spectrum Act”) in early 2012, authorized the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, with
the first auction to be of broadcast television spectrum. Congress further directed that
certain net proceeds from the broadcast incentive auction are to be deposited in the
Public Safety Trust Fund to fund a national first responder network, state and local
public safety grants, and public safety research, and the balance is to be used for deficit reduction.”
And how are they going about it?
Well, that’s the complicated part. The FCC needs to acquire spectrum from current users, and it needs to sell that spectrum to future users. This involves a pair of auctions. The mechanics of these auctions are not simple, and sometimes seem to be counter-intutitive.
As citizens, it’s important that people in the U.S. develop an understanding of what the FCC is doing, why, and what will happen as a result.
For those who do not live in the US, where a combination of local television stations, broadcast television networks, cable television networks, and a wide range of other services are commonplace, this whole adventure may be very difficult to understand, and may not make much sense. For those who wonder why the FCC directed a complete conversion from analog to digital television as a project separate from this latest shift, you should count yourself among the many.