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Notice

Comment Sought on Reserve Prices or Minimum Opening Bids and Other Auction Procedural Issues; Auction of Additional FM Broadcast Construction Permits To Be Included in Auction No. 37 Scheduled for February 21, 2001

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

This document announces the auction of certain FM broadcast construction permits to commence February 21, 2001.

DATES:

Comments regarding the vacant FM allotments listed in Attachment A of DA 00-2171 (“Auction No. 37 Comment Public Notice”) are due on or before October 9, 2000. Comments regarding the eight additional vacant FM allotments listed in DA 00-2232 (“Addendum Public Notice”) are due on or before October 13, 2000. All reply comments are due on or before October 23, 2000.

ADDRESSES:

To file formally, parties must submit an original and four copies to the Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 Twelfth Street, SW, TW-A325, Washington, DC 20054. In addition, parties must submit one copy to Louis Sigalos, Deputy Division Chief, Auctions and Industry Analysis Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, 445 Twelfth Street, SW, Suite 4-A668, Washington, DC 20554.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kathy Garland, Auctions and Industry Analysis Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, at (717) 338-2888; Kenneth Burnley, Legal Branch, Auctions and Industry Analysis Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, at (202) 418-0660; or Lisa Scanlan, Audio Services Division, Mass Media Bureau at (202) 418-2700.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of two Public Notices, DA 00-2171 (“Auction No. 37 Comment Public Notice”) and DA 00-2232 (“Addendum Public Notice”), released September 25, 2000 and September 29, 2000 respectively. The complete text of the public notices, including attachments, is available for inspection and copying during normal business hours in the FCC Reference Center (Room CY-A257), 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC. It may also be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, International Transcription Services, Inc. (ITS, Inc.) 1231 20th Street, NW, Start Printed Page 59842Washington, DC 20036, (202) 857-3800. It is also available on the Commission's web site at http://www.fcc.gov.

1. By these Public Notices, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (the “Bureau”) and the Mass Media Bureau (collectively referred to as the “Bureaus”) announce the auction of certain FM broadcast construction permits to commence February 21, 2001. As discussed in greater detail herein, the Bureaus propose that Auction No. 37 be composed of 359 construction permits in the FM Broadcast service as listed in Attachment A of DA 00-2232 (“Addendum Public Notice”).

2. Specifically, Attachment A of DA 00-2171 (“Auction No. 37 Comment Public Notice”) lists 351 vacant FM allotments, reflecting FM channels assigned to the Table of FM Allotments, 47 CFR 73.202(b), pursuant to the Commission's established rulemaking procedures, designated for use in the indicated community. Attachment A of the Addendum Public Notice adds eight additional vacant FM allotments not listed in the Auction No. 37 Comment Public Notice, and lists all vacant FM allotments that will be included in Auction No. 37. The eight additional vacant FM allotments of the Addendum Public Notice have been inserted into Attachment A alphabetically by state and the market numbers identified in the attachment to the Auction 37 Comment Public Notice have been revised to reflect the addition of these eight vacant FM allotments. Both Public Notices seek comment on procedural issues related to the auctioning of FM broadcast construction permits in Auction No. 37.

3. As stated in the Broadcast First Report and Order, 63 FR 48615 (September 11, 1998), applicants may apply for any vacant FM allotment, as specified in Attachment A of the Addendum Public Notice; applicants specifying the same FM allotment will be considered mutually exclusive and, thus, the construction permit for the FM allotment will be awarded by competitive bidding procedures. The reference coordinates for each vacant FM allotment are also listed in Attachment A of the Addendum Public Notice.

4. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 requires the Commission to “ensure that, in the scheduling of any competitive bidding under this subsection, an adequate period is allowed * * * before issuance of bidding rules, to permit notice and comment on proposed auction procedures * * *.” Consistent with the provisions of the Balanced Budget Act and to ensure that potential bidders have adequate time to familiarize themselves with the specific rules that will govern the day-to-day conduct of an auction, the Commission directed the Bureau, under its existing delegated authority, to seek comment on a variety of auction-specific procedures prior to the start of each auction. We therefore seek comment on the following issues relating to Auction No. 37.

I. Auction Structure

A. Simultaneous Multiple Round Auction Design

5. We propose to award these FM construction permits in a single stage, simultaneous multiple-round auction. As described further, this methodology offers every FM construction permit for bid at the same time in successive rounds of bidding. We seek comment on this proposal.

B. Upfront Payments and Initial Maximum Eligibility for Each Bidder

6. The Bureaus have delegated authority and discretion to determine an appropriate upfront payment for the FM construction permits being auctioned taking into account such factors as the efficiency of the auction process and the potential value of spectrum. As described further, the upfront payment is a refundable deposit made by each bidder to determine and establish eligibility to bid on the FM construction permits. Upfront payments related to the specific spectrum subject to auction protects against frivolous or insincere bidding and provides the Commission with a source of funds from which to collect payments owed at the close of the auction. With these guidelines in mind, we propose the schedule of upfront payments contained in Attachment A to the Public Notice. We seek comment on this proposal.

7. We further propose that the amount of the upfront payment submitted by a bidder will determine the initial maximum eligibility (as measured in bidding units) for each bidder. Upfront payments will not be attributed to specific construction permits, but instead will be translated into bidding units to define a bidder's initial maximum eligibility, which cannot be increased during the auction. Thus, in calculating the upfront payment amount, an applicant must determine the maximum number of bidding units it may wish to bid on (or hold high bids on) in any single round, and submit an upfront payment covering that number of bidding units. We seek comment on this proposal.

C. Activity Rules

8. In order to ensure that the auction closes within a reasonable period of time, an activity rule requires bidders to either place a valid bid and/or be the standing high bidder during each round of the auction rather than waiting until the end to participate. A bidder that does not satisfy the activity rule will either use an activity rule waiver, if any remain, or lose bidding eligibility in the auction.

9. We propose a single stage auction with the following activity requirement: In each round of the auction, a bidder desiring to maintain its eligibility to participate in the auction is required to be active on one hundred (100) percent of its bidding eligibility. Failure to maintain the requisite activity level will result in the use of an activity rule waiver, if any remain, or a reduction in the bidder's bidding eligibility, thus eliminating the bidder from the auction. We seek comment on this proposal.

D. Activity Rule Waivers

10. Use of an activity rule waiver preserves the bidder's current bidding eligibility despite the bidder's activity in the current round being below the required minimum level. An activity rule waiver applies to an entire round of bidding and not to a particular construction permit. Activity waivers are principally a mechanism for auction participants to avoid the loss of auction eligibility in the event that exigent circumstances prevent them from placing a bid in a particular round.

11. The FCC auction system assumes that bidders with insufficient activity would prefer to use an activity rule waiver (if available) rather than lose bidding eligibility. Therefore, the system will automatically apply a waiver (known as an “automatic waiver”) at the end of any bidding period where a bidder's activity level is below the minimum required, unless (i) there are no more activity rule waivers available; or (ii) the bidder overrides the automatic application of a waiver by reducing eligibility, thereby meeting the minimum requirements.

12. We propose that a bidder with insufficient activity that wants to reduce its bidding eligibility rather than use an activity rule waiver, must affirmatively override the automatic waiver mechanism during the bidding period by using the reduce eligibility function in the software. In this case, the bidder's eligibility would be permanently reduced to bring the bidder into compliance with the activity rules. Once eligibility has been reduced, a bidder Start Printed Page 59843would not be permitted to regain its lost bidding eligibility.

13. We propose that a bidder may proactively use an activity rule waiver as a means to keep the auction open without placing a bid. If a bidder submits a proactive waiver (using the proactive waiver function in the bidding software) during a bidding period in which no bids are submitted, the auction will remain open and the bidder's eligibility will be preserved. An automatic waiver invoked in a round in which there are no new valid bids will not keep the auction open, under the simultaneous stopping rule. The submission of a proactive waiver cannot occur after a bid has been submitted in a round and will preclude a bidder from placing any bids later in that round.

14. We propose that each bidder in Auction No. 37 be provided with five activity rule waivers that may be used in any round during the course of the auction. We seek comment on this proposal.

E. Information Relating to Auction Delay, Suspension or Cancellation

15. For Auction No. 37, we propose that, by public notice or by announcement during the auction, the Bureau may delay, suspend or cancel the auction in the event of natural disaster, technical obstacle, evidence of an auction security breach, unlawful bidding activity, administrative or weather necessity, or for any other reason that affects the fair and competitive conduct of competitive bidding. In such cases, the Bureau, in its sole discretion, may elect to: resume the auction starting from the beginning of the current round; resume the auction starting from some previous round; or cancel the auction in its entirety. Network interruption may cause the Bureau to delay or suspend the auction. We emphasize that exercise of this authority is solely within the discretion of the Bureau, and its use is not intended to be a substitute for situations in which bidders may wish to apply their activity rule waivers. We seek comment on this proposal.

II. Bidding Procedures

A. Round Structure

16. The Commission will use its Automated Auction System to conduct the electronic simultaneous multiple round auction format for Auction No. 37. The initial bidding schedule will be announced in a public notice to be released at least one week before the start of the auction, and will be included in the registration mailings. The simultaneous multiple round format will consist of sequential bidding rounds, each followed by the release of round results. Details regarding the location and format of round results will be included in the same public notice.

17. The Bureau has discretion to change the bidding schedule in order to foster an auction pace that reasonably balances speed with the bidders' need to study round results. The Bureau may increase or decrease the amount of time for the bidding rounds and review periods, or the number of rounds per day, depending upon the bidding activity level and other factors. We seek comment on this proposal.

B. Reserve Price or Minimum Opening Bid

18. The Balanced Budget Act calls upon the Commission to prescribe methods by which a reasonable reserve price will be required or a minimum opening bid established when FCC licenses or construction permits are subject to auction (i.e., because the Commission has accepted mutually exclusive applications for those licenses), unless the Commission determines that a reserve price or minimum bid is not in the public interest. Consistent with this mandate, the Commission has directed the Bureaus to seek comment on the use of minimum opening bids and/or reserve price prior to the start of each auction of broadcast construction permits.

19. Normally, a reserve price is an absolute minimum price below which an item will not be sold in a given auction. Reserve prices can be either published or unpublished. A minimum opening bid, on the other hand, is the minimum bid price set at the beginning of the auction below which no bids are accepted. It is generally used to accelerate the competitive bidding process. Also, in a minimum opening bid scenario, the auctioneer generally has the discretion to lower the amount later in the auction. It is also possible for the minimum opening bid and the reserve price to be the same amount.

20. In light of the Balanced Budget Act, the Bureaus propose to establish minimum opening bids for Auction No. 37. The Bureaus believe a minimum opening bid, which has been utilized in other broadcast auctions, is an effective bidding tool. A minimum opening bid, rather than a reserve price, will help to regulate the pace of the auction and provides flexibility.

21. For Auction No. 37, the proposed minimum opening bid for each FM allotment, as listed in Attachment A of the Public Notice, was determined by taking into account various factors related to the efficiency of the auction and the potential value of the spectrum, including the type of service and class of facility offered, market size, population covered by the proposed FM broadcast facility, industry cash flow data and recent broadcast transactions. We seek comment on this proposal.

22. If commenters believe that these minimum opening bids will result in unsold construction permits, or are not reasonable amounts, or should instead operate as reserve prices, they should explain why this is so, and comment on the desirability of an alternative approach. Commenters are advised to support their claim with valuation analyses and suggested reserve prices or minimum opening bid levels or formulas. Alternatively, comment is sought on whether, consistent with the Balanced Budget Act, the public interest would be served by having no minimum opening bids or reserve prices.

C. Minimum Accepted Bids and Bid Increments

23. Once there is a standing high bid on a construction permit, a bid increment will be applied to that permit to establish a minimum acceptable bid for the following round. For Auction No. 37, we propose to set a minimum 10 percent increment. This means that a new bid placed by a bidder must be at least 10 percent greater than the previous bid received on the construction permit. The Bureau retains the discretion to change the methodology for determining the minimum bid increment if they determine the circumstances so dictate. Advanced notice of the Bureau's decision to do so will be announced via the Automated Auction System.

24. Bidders will enter their bid as multiples of the bid increment (i.e., with a 10 percent bid increment, a bid of 1 increment will place a bid 10 percent above the previous high bid, a bid of 2 increments will place a bid 20 percent above the previous high bid). We seek comment on this proposal.

D. Information Regarding Bid Withdrawal and Bid Removal

25. For Auction No. 37, we propose the following bid removal and bid withdrawal procedures. Before the close of a bidding period, a bidder has the option of removing any bid placed in that round. By using the remove bid function in the software, a bidder may effectively “unsubmit” any bid placed within that round. A bidder removing a bid placed in the same round is not subject to a withdrawal payment.

26. Once a round closes, a bidder may no longer remove a bid. However, in the next round, a bidder may withdraw Start Printed Page 59844standing high bids from previous rounds using the withdraw bid function. A high bidder that withdraws its standing high bid from a previous round is subject to the bid withdrawal payment provisions. We seek comment on these bid removal and bid withdrawal procedures.

27. In the Part 1 Third Report and Order, 63 FR 770 (January 7, 1998), the Commission explained that allowing bid withdrawals facilitates efficient aggregation of licenses and the pursuit of efficient backup strategies as information becomes available during the course of an auction. The Commission noted, however, that in some instances bidders may seek to withdraw bids for improper reasons, including to delay the close of the auction for strategic purposes. The Bureau, therefore, has discretion, in managing the auction, to limit the number of withdrawals to prevent strategic delay of the close of the auction or other abuses. The Commission stated that the Bureau should assertively exercise its discretion, consider limiting the number of rounds in which bidders may withdraw bids, and prevent bidders from bidding on a particular market it finds that a bidder is abusing the Commission's bid withdrawal procedures.

28. Applying this reasoning, we propose to limit each bidder in Auction No. 37 to withdraw standing high bids in no more than two rounds during the course of the auction. To permit a bidder to withdraw bids in more than two rounds would likely encourage insincere bidding or the use of withdrawals for anti-competitive strategic purposes. The two rounds in which withdrawals are utilized will be at the bidder's discretion; withdrawals otherwise must be in accordance with the Commission's rules. There is no limit on the number of standing high bids that may be withdrawn in either of the rounds in which withdrawals are utilized. Withdrawals will remain subject to the bid withdrawal payment provisions specified in the Commission's rules. We seek comment on these proposals.

E. Stopping Rule

29. For Auction No. 37, the Bureau proposes to employ a simultaneous stopping rule approach. The Bureau has discretion “to establish stopping rules before or during multiple round auctions in order to terminate the auction within a reasonable time.” A simultaneous stopping rule means that all construction permits remain open until the first round in which no new acceptable bids, proactive waivers or withdrawals are received. After the first such round, bidding closes simultaneously on all construction permits. Thus, unless circumstances dictate otherwise, bidding would remain open on all construction permits until bidding stops on every permit.

30. The Bureau seeks comment on a modified version of the simultaneous stopping rule. The modified stopping rule would close the auction for all construction permits after the first round in which no bidder submits a proactive waiver, a withdrawal, or a new bid on any construction permit on which it is not the standing high bidder. Thus, absent any other bidding activity, a bidder placing a new bid on a construction permit for which it is the standing high bidder would not keep the auction open under this modified stopping rule. The Bureau further seeks comment on whether this modified stopping rule should be utilized.

31. We propose that the Bureau retains the discretion to keep an auction open even if no new acceptable bids or proactive waivers are submitted and no previous high bids are withdrawn. In this event, the effect will be the same as if a bidder had submitted a proactive waiver. The activity rule, therefore, will apply as usual and a bidder with insufficient activity will either lose bidding eligibility or use a remaining activity rule waiver.

32. Finally, we propose that the Bureau reserve the right to declare that the auction will end after a specified number of additional rounds (“special stopping rule”). If the Bureau invokes this special stopping rule, they will accept bids in the final round(s) only for construction permits on which the high bid increased in at least one of the preceding specified number of rounds. The Bureau proposes to exercise this option only in certain circumstances, such as, for example, where the auction is proceeding very slowly, there is minimal overall bidding activity, or it appears likely that the auction will not close within a reasonable period of time. Before exercising this option, the Bureau is likely to attempt to increase the pace of the auction by, for example, increasing the number of bidding rounds per day, and/or increasing the amount of the minimum bid increments for the limited number of construction permits where there is still a high level of bidding activity. We seek comment on these proposals.

Start Signature

Federal Communications Commission.

Margaret Wiener,

Deputy Chief, Auctions and Industry Analysis Division.

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[FR Doc. 00-25741 Filed 10-5-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6712-01-P