FCC tries selling a bit less TV spectrum

CC BY by b_schmidt

An auction sign that’s not so depressing. Photo by b_schmidt

I haven’t been writing about this much because, frankly, I find it too depressing. The federal government is auctioning chunks of the spectrum that broadcast TV is using to serve the public today so that wireless services can use them for their subscribers tomorrow. Some of that money goes to the broadcasters who have been using it essentially free for all these years. The rest goes to pay down the national debt, a one-time payment so Congress will buy more time to not balance the budget. Viewers will probably have fewer free channels to watch, and wireless subscribers will keep on paying for wireless. If you want more details, there’s a pretty good explainer here.

The process is complicated. Basically the FCC will try to auction a very large band of TV spectrum, and if that fails, it will try again with a slightly smaller band. As TV Technology reports, that first round failed, and the FCC is reloading for Round Two.

To say that the first round failed is an understatement. The target was $88 billion, but bidders offered less than $23 billion. The second round will include less spectrum for a local target, yet to be determined. For more information, including a great chart to show the round-by-round possibilities, go check out that TV Technology article.

Looking at that grid of possibilities, it looks like each new round of the auction saves one or two UHF TV slots. I sure hope that the auction continues for a very long time so we can keep as much free TV as we can.