updated 04:50 pm EDT, Mon September 15, 2008
FCC new D-Block auction
With the successful completion of the 700MHz auction back in March, the only left-over segment of the band that did not sell was the one called D-Block and a Monday report has the FCC’s chairman, Kevin Martin, unveiling new plans to auction off the segment. The new proposal will involve nationwide and regional licensing while retaining a public-private partnership approach as well as a lower reserve price of $750 million versus the original $1.3 billion. In addition, there will be more flexible build-out requirements imposed, now at 15 years instead of 10, and more public knowledge required of the operations and restrictions of current licensee holder, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp, which was a concern from potential buyers the first time around.
The revamped proposal will be voted on by the FCC during its September 25 open meeting, where the commission will fast-track it for public comment.
During the original sale attempt, the bid for D-Block reached $472 million, still short of the new proposed $750 million price, though now bids can be made for both national and regional pieces of the broadband range. The 58 regional licenses would allow licensing of WiMAX and LTE technologies. The new proposal also has a provision that would nullify a national bid if the regional bids add up to a bigger amount. If more than 50 percent of the US population is covered by the regional licenses but the $750 million goal is not met, the remaining regions could be sold at lower prices.
The second auction is planned to take place between April and June of next year. Martin points out time is scarce, as the 700MHz band will be abandoned by over-the-air TV providers by February of 2009. Failing to approve the new rules by then could considerably prolong the process, as a new FCC administration is due to take over in 2009.
Martin points out his policy is meant to ensure emergency services such as local police and fire departments have a way to communicate and not impact the competition of wireless businesses.