The Media Bureau released a Public Notice adopting a methodology and scheduling plan (“Scheduling Plan” or “Plan”) to establish construction deadlines for transitioning stations following the conclusion of Auction 1000.  The Notice adopts the proposed methodology, with some modifications, in the Transition Scheduling Proposal Public Notice (“Proposal PN”).  The methodology will be used after final channel reassignments are known in order to establish a schedule that will allow stations, manufacturers, and other vendors and consultants to coordinate broadcasters’ post-auction channel changes.  The Commission asserts that the methodology is necessary to provide a means of breaking dependencies to reduce the need for and manage coordination.  The Bureau also telegraphs that it may provide some relaxation of the prohibited communications rule once post-auction channel assignment information is provided to broadcasters.

Phase Assignment:

Stations will be assigned to 10 transition phases, which will all begin at the same time when channel reassignments are announced in the Closing and Reassignment Public Notice, but each will have sequential end dates.  To establish completion dates for each phase, the methodology will utilize two computer-based tools to assign stations to phases.  The “Phase Assignment Tool” will first assign stations to phases, and the “Phase Scheduling Tool” will determine the phase completion date for each phase.

  • With the exception of the first phase, the testing period for subsequent phases will begin on the day after the end of the preceding phase.
  • Every station must cease operating on its pre-auction channel at the end of its assigned phase (“phase completion date”).
  • The Commission declines to accept additional or different information about stations that face difficult approval processes or procurement issues prior to assigning stations to phases.

The Commission adopted the following objectives and constraints in guiding the phase assignment methodology:

Objectives:

The Commission adopts the four objectives proposed in the Proposal PN.  The objectives are as follows:

1) Clearing the 600 MHz band;

2) Minimizing the sum, over all DMAs, of the number of times a DMA must rescan;

3) Minimizing the total number of linked stations;

4) Minimizing the difference between the number of stations in the largest transition phase and the smallest transition phase.

Constraints:

The Commission also adopts eight of the constraints proposed in the Proposal PN.  Every solution will satisfy the following constraints:

1) A station cannot cause more than two percent new pairwise interference to another station during the transition;

2) No stations in Canada will be assigned to transition before the third transition phase;

3) There will be no more than 10 transition phases;

4) All stations within a DMA will be assigned to no more than two different transition phases;

5) The difference in the number of stations in the largest transition phase and the smallest transition phase will be no more than 30 stations;

6) Every transition station will be assigned to one transition phase;

7) No phase can have more than 125 linked stations;

8) No station falling into the “complicated” category for purposes of the Phase Scheduling Tool can be assigned to Phase 1.

The Commission also addressed the following issues in the Plan:

39-Month Transition Deadline:

Some stations may request extensions of their construction deadline and seek authority to continue operating on their pre-auction channel after their phase completion date, including a waiver of their phase completion deadline.  For any requests for modification of a station’s facility or transition deadline, the Commission will evaluate on a case-by-case basis subject to a high burden of proof to determine the impact of a request on the overall transition schedule.  Otherwise, it adopts the 39-month timeline, however, it notes that it is subject to a pending Petition for Reconsideration.

  • Proposals for waivers or alternative transition solutions should specifically demonstrate that implementation would not interfere with other stations’ transition efforts and address how implementation of the proposal may affect the transition schedule.

Temporary Channels:

The Commission will permit a full power or Class A licensee to request authority to operate on an individual channel in the new wireless band during the post-auction channels.  It disagrees with T-Mobile’s support of voluntary temporary channels, because the Commission finds it to be too conservative an approach.  To evaluate requests for individual use of temporary channels, the Commission will require a demonstration that there is no reasonable alternative to operating in the new wireless band and written consent from the wireless licensees of the channel that the broadcaster wishes to operate on and licensees that would otherwise be required to protect the broadcaster under the Commission’s inter-service interference rules.

Auxiliary Facilities:

The model does not include the use of auxiliary antennas.  Additionally, the Commission will not allow wireless stations to test or operate on post-auction channels until their designated phase testing period.

Confidential Letters and Prohibited Communications:

The Commission does not at this time lift any prohibitions on communications.  It does provide limited guidance on the rule as it pertains to broadcasters and the post-auction transition.  Significantly, the Bureau notes that “some relief from the prohibition for communications among broadcasters may be appropriate, particularly where doing so would assist the public interest in a smooth post-auction transition.”  The Bureau notes that it will address concerns “specifically at the time post-auction channel assignment information is provided to broadcasters.”

The Media Bureau also released a Public Notice outlining procedures for the post-incentive auction channel assignments for the broadcast transition.  The Notice details the requirement that all stations assigned a new channel as a result of the auction submit an application for construction permit and the process by which winning reverse auction bidders must relinquish their spectrum rights.  The Notice also outlines the following:

  • Reimbursement process for costs incurred in relocating to new channels and MVPDs
  • Construction permit extensions or STA requests
  • Procedures for channel sharing stations
  • Impact evaluations of applications filed during priority windows, requests for waiver, etc.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like any additional information.