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Notice

Closed Broadcast Auction Scheduled for July 23, 2003; Comment Sought on Reserve Prices or Minimum Opening Bids and Other Auction Procedures

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

This document announces the auction of construction permits for Auction No. 54 scheduled to begin on July 23, 2003. This document also seeks comment on reserve prices or minimum opening bids and other auction procedures.

DATES:

Comments are due on or before April 25, 2003 and reply comments are due on or before May 2, 2003.

ADDRESSES:

Comments and reply comments must be sent by electronic mail to the following address: auction54@fcc.gov.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Auctions and Industry Analysis Division: Kenneth Burnley, Legal Branch at (202) 418-0660, Lyle Ishida, Operations Branch at (202) 418-0660 or Linda Sanderson, Operations Branch at (717) 338-2888. Audio Division: Lisa Scanlan at (202) 418-2700. Video Division: Shaun Maher at (202) 418-1600.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice released on April 11, 2003. The complete text of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice, including the attachments, is available for public inspection and copying during regular business hours at the FCC Reference Information Center, Portals II, 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. The Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice may also be purchased from the Commission's duplicating contractor, Start Printed Page 19817Qualex International, Portals II, 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC, 20554, telephone (202) 863-2893, facsimile (202) 863-2898, or via e-mail qualexint@aol.com.

I. General Information

1. By the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice, the Media Bureau (“MB”) and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) (collectively, the “Bureaus”) announce the auction of construction permits for one full power television (TV), two low power television (LPTV), and four FM stations (Auction No. 54) scheduled to commence on July 23, 2003. A list of the locations of these stations is included as Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice. These new broadcast stations are the subject of pending, mutually exclusive applications for construction permits for the referenced broadcast services, for which the Commission has not approved a settlement agreement that obviates the need for an auction. Pursuant to the Broadcast First Report and Order, 63 FR 48615 (September 11, 1998), participation in Auction No. 54 will be limited to those applicants identified in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice. Applicants will be eligible to bid on only those construction permits selected on their previously filed FCC Form 301 or 346.

2. Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice sets forth all mutually exclusive applicant groups (“MX Groups”) on a service-by-service basis, accompanied by their respective minimum opening bids and upfront payments. All MX Groups identified in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice have been subject to competition through the opening and closing of the relevant period for filing competing applications, either through two-step cut-off list procedures or through an application filing window. All applications within an identified MX Group are directly mutually exclusive with one another, and therefore a single construction permit will be auctioned for each MX Group identified in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice.

3. 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 * * *.” The Bureaus therefore seek comment on the following issues relating to Auction No. 54.

II. Auction Structure

A. Simultaneous Multiple Round (SMR) Auction Design

4. The Bureaus propose to award all construction permits included in Auction No. 54 in a simultaneous multiple round auction. This methodology offers every construction permit for bid at the same time with successive bidding rounds in which bidders may place bids. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

B. Upfront Payments and Initial Maximum Eligibility

5. The Bureaus have delegated authority and discretion to determine an appropriate upfront payment for each construction permit being auctioned, taking into account such factors as the efficiency of the auction and the value of similar spectrum. The upfront payment is a refundable deposit made by each bidder to establish eligibility to bid on permits. Upfront payments related to the specific spectrum subject to auction protect against frivolous or insincere bidding and provide the Commission with a source of funds from which to collect payments owed at the close of the auction. With these guidelines in mind for Auction No. 54, the Bureaus propose to make the upfront payments equal to the minimum opening bids, which, as described in section III.B, are established based on various factors related to the efficiency of the auction and the potential value of the spectrum. The specific upfront payment for each construction permit is set forth in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

6. The Bureaus further propose that the amount of the upfront payment submitted by a bidder will determine the number of bidding units on which a bidder may place bids. This limit is a bidder's “maximum initial eligibility.” Each construction permit is assigned a specific number of bidding units equal to the upfront payment listed in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice, on a bidding unit per dollar basis. This number does not change as prices rise during the auction. A bidder may place bids on multiple construction permits, if those construction permits were selected on its previously filed FCC Form 301 or 346, as long as the total number of bidding units associated with those construction permits does not exceed the bidder's eligibility. Eligibility cannot be increased during the auction. In order to bid on a construction permit, qualified bidders must have an eligibility level that meets the number of bidding units assigned to that permit. Thus, in calculating its upfront payment amount, an applicant should 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. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

C. Activity Rules

7. In order to ensure that the auction closes within a reasonable period of time, an activity rule requires bidders to bid actively on a percentage of their current bidding eligibility during each round of the auction rather than waiting until the end to participate.

8. The Bureaus 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. A bidder's activity will be the sum of the bidding units associated with the construction permit upon which it places a bid during the current round, or the construction permit upon which it is the standing high bidder. 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, possibly eliminating it from the auction. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

D. Activity Rule Waivers and Reducing Eligibility

9. 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 can be either proactive or automatic and 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.

Note:

Once a proactive waiver is submitted during a round, that waiver cannot be unsubmitted.

10. The FCC Automated 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 Start Printed Page 19818round in which a bidder's activity level is below the minimum required unless: (i) There are no activity rule waivers remaining; or (ii) bidders eligible to bid on more than one construction permit override the automatic application of a waiver by reducing eligibility, thereby meeting the minimum requirements. If a bidder that is eligible to bid on only one construction permit has no activity rule waivers available, the bidder's eligibility will be reduced, eliminating it from the auction. If a bidder that is eligible to bid on more than one construction permit has no waivers remaining and does not satisfy the required activity level, its current eligibility will be permanently reduced, possibly eliminating the bidder from the auction.

11. A bidder that is eligible to bid on more than one construction permit and has insufficient activity may wish to reduce its bidding eligibility rather than use an activity rule waiver. If so, the bidder must affirmatively override the automatic waiver mechanism during the bidding period by using the “reduce eligibility” function in the bidding system. In this case, the bidder's eligibility is permanently reduced to bring the bidder into compliance with the activity rules. Once eligibility has been reduced, a bidder will not be permitted to regain its lost bidding eligibility.

12. 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 system) 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.

13. The Bureaus propose that each bidder in Auction No. 54 be provided with three activity rule waivers that may be used at the bidder's discretion during the course of the auction. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

E. Information Relating to Auction Delay, Suspension, or Cancellation

14. For Auction No. 54, the Bureaus propose that, by public notice or by announcement during the auction, it 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 efficient conduct of competitive bidding. In such cases, the Bureaus, in their 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 Bureaus to delay or suspend the auction. The Bureaus emphasize that exercise of this authority is solely within its discretion, and its use is not intended to be a substitute for situations in which bidders may wish to apply their activity rule waivers. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

III. Bidding Procedures

A. Round Structure

15. The Commission will conduct Auction No. 54 over the Internet. Telephonic Bidding will also be available, and the FCC Wide Area Network will be available as well. The telephone number through which the backup FCC Wide Area Network may be accessed will be announced in a later public notice. Full information regarding how to establish such a connection will be provided in the public notice announcing details of auction procedures.

16. The initial bidding schedule will be announced in a public notice listing the qualified bidders, which is released approximately 10 days before the start of the auction. 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 also be included in the qualified bidders public notice.

17. The Bureaus have the 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 and adjust their bidding strategies. The Bureaus 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. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

B. Reserve Price or Minimum Opening Bid

18. The Balanced Budget Act calls upon the Commission to prescribe methods for establishing a reasonable reserve price or a minimum opening bid when FCC licenses or construction permits are subject to auction, unless the Commission determines that a reserve price or minimum opening bid is not in the public interest. 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, the auctioneer often has the discretion to lower the minimum opening bid amount later in the auction. It is also possible for the minimum opening bid and the reserve price to be the same amount.

19. In light of the Balanced Budget Act's requirements, the Bureaus propose to establish minimum opening bids for Auction No. 54. For Auction No. 54, the proposed minimum opening bid prices were 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, proposed population coverage, market size, industry cash flow data and recent broadcast transactions. The specific minimum opening bid for each construction permit available in Auction No. 54 is set forth in Attachment A of the Auction No. 54 Comment Public Notice. Comment is sought on this proposal.

20. 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 claims 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 bid or reserve price.

C. Minimum Acceptable Bids and Bid Increments

21. In each round, eligible bidders will be able to place bids on a given construction permit in any of nine different amounts. The FCC Automated Auction System interface will list the nine acceptable bid amounts for each construction permit. Until a bid has been placed on a construction permit, the minimum acceptable bid for that permit will be equal to its minimum opening bid. In the rounds after an acceptable bid is placed on a construction permit, the minimum acceptable bid for that permit will be equal to the standing high bid plus the bid increment.

22. Once there is a standing high bid on the construction permit, the FCC Automated Auction System will Start Printed Page 19819calculate a minimum acceptable bid for that construction permit for the following round. The difference between the minimum acceptable bid and the standing high bid for each construction permit will define the bid increment. The nine acceptable bid amounts for each construction permit consist of the minimum acceptable bid (the standing high bid plus one bid increment) and additional amounts calculated using multiple bid increments (i.e., the second bid amount equals the standing high bid plus two times the bid increment, the third bid amount equals the standing high bid plus three times the bid increment, etc.).

23. For Auction No. 54, the Bureaus propose to use a 10 percent bid increment. This means that the minimum acceptable bid for a construction permit will be approximately 10 percent greater than the previous standing high bid received on the construction permit. The minimum acceptable bid amount will be calculated by multiplying the standing high bid times one plus the increment percentage—i.e., (standing high bid) * (1.10). The Bureaus will round the result using our standard rounding procedure for minimum acceptable bid calculations: results above $10,000 are rounded to the nearest $1,000; results below $10,000 but above $1,000 are rounded to the nearest $100; and results below $1,000 are rounded to the nearest $10.

24. The Bureaus retain the discretion to change the minimum acceptable bids and bid increments if they determine the circumstances so dictate. The Bureaus seek comment on these proposals.

25. Until a bid has been placed on a construction permit, the minimum acceptable bid for that construction permit will be equal to its minimum opening bid. The additional bid amounts are calculated using the difference between the minimum opening bid times one plus the percentage increment, rounded, and the minimum opening bid. That is, the increment used to calculate additional bid amounts = (minimum opening bid)(1 + percentage increment)[rounded]—(minimum opening bid). Therefore, when the percentage increment equals 0.1 (i.e., 10%), the first additional bid amount will be approximately ten percent higher than the minimum opening bid; the second, twenty percent higher; the third, thirty percent higher; etc.

26. The Bureaus retain the discretion to change the minimum acceptable bids and bid increments if they determine that circumstances so dictate. The Bureaus will do so by announcement in the FCC Automated Auction System. The Bureaus seek comment on these proposals.

D. High Bids

27. At the end of a bidding round, the high bids will be determined based on the highest gross bid amount received for each construction permit. A high bid from a previous round is sometimes referred to as a “standing high bid.” A “standing high bid” will remain the high bid until there is a higher bid on the same construction permit at the close of a subsequent round. Bidders are reminded that standing high bids confer bidding activity.

28. In the event of identical high bids on a construction permit in a given round (i.e., tied bids), the Bureaus propose to use a random number generator to select a high bid from among the tied bids. The remaining bidders, as well as the high bidder, will be able to submit a higher bid in a subsequent round. If no bidder submits a higher bid in a subsequent round, the high bid from the previous round will win the construction permit. If any bids are received on the construction permit in a subsequent round, the high bid again will be determined by the highest gross bid amount received for the construction permit.

E. Information Regarding Bid Withdrawal and Bid Removal

29. For Auction No. 54, the Bureaus 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 removing selected bids in the bidding system, 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. Once a round closes, a bidder may no longer remove a bid. The Bureaus seek comment on this bid removal procedure.

30. 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 construction permits and the pursuit of efficient backup strategies as information becomes available during the course of an auction. In Auction No. 54, however, aggregation of construction permits will not be possible because of the pre-established MX Groups. Accordingly, for this auction, the Bureaus propose that bidders not be permitted to withdraw bids in any round. The Bureaus seek comment on this proposal.

F. Stopping Rule

31. The Bureaus have the discretion “to establish stopping rules before or during multiple round auctions in order to terminate the auction within a reasonable time.” For Auction No. 54, the Bureaus propose to employ a simultaneous stopping rule approach. A simultaneous stopping rule means that all construction permits remain open until bidding closes simultaneously on all construction permits.

32. Bidding will close simultaneously on all construction permits after the first round in which no new acceptable bids or proactive waivers are received. Thus, unless circumstances dictate otherwise, bidding will remain open on all construction permits until bidding stops on every construction permit.

33. However, the Bureaus propose to retain the discretion to exercise any of the following options during Auction No. 54:

i. Utilize 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, 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.

ii. Keep the auction open even if no new acceptable bids or proactive waivers are submitted. 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.

iii. Declare that the auction will end after a specified number of additional rounds (“special stopping rule”). If the Bureaus invoke this special stopping rule, it will accept bids in the specified final round(s) only for construction permits on which the high bid increased in at least one of the preceding specified number of rounds.

34. The Bureaus propose to exercise these options 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 these options, the Bureaus are likely to attempt to increase the pace of the auction by, for example, Start Printed Page 19820increasing 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. The Bureaus seek comment on these proposals.

IV. Due Diligence

35. Potential bidders are solely responsible for investigating and evaluating all technical and market place factors that may have a bearing on the value of the broadcast facilities in this auction. The FCC makes no representations or warranties about the use of this spectrum for particular services. Applicants should be aware that an FCC auction represents an opportunity to become an FCC permittee in the broadcast service, subject to certain conditions and regulations. An FCC auction does not constitute an endorsement by the FCC of any particular service, technology, or product, nor does an FCC construction permit or license constitute a guarantee of business success. Applicants should perform their individual due diligence before proceeding as they would with any new business venture.

36. Potential bidders are strongly encouraged to conduct their own research prior to Auction No. 54 in order to determine the existence of pending proceedings that might affect their decisions regarding participation in the auction. Participants in Auction No. 54 are strongly encouraged to continue such research during the auction.

37. Potential bidders for the new television facility should note that, in November 1999, Congress enacted the Community Broadcasters Protection Act of 1999 (CBPA) which established a new Class A television service. In response to the enactment of the CBPA, the Commission adopted rules to establish the new Class A television service. In the Class A Report and Order, 65 FR 29985 (May 10, 2000), the Commission adopted rules to provide interference protection for eligible Class A television stations from new full power television stations. Given the Commission's ruling in the Class A Report and Order, the winning bidder in Auction No. 54, upon submission of its long-form application (FCC Form 301), will have to provide interference protection to qualified Class A television stations. Therefore, potential bidders are encouraged to perform engineering studies to determine the existence of Class A television stations and their effect on the ability to operate the full power television station proposed in this auction. Information about the identity and location of Class A television stations is available from the Media Bureau's Consolidated Database System (CDBS) (public access available at: http://www.fcc.gov/​mb) and on the Media Bureau's Class A television web page: http://www.fcc.gov/​mb/​video/​files/​classa.html.

38. Potential bidders for the new television facility are also reminded that full service television stations are in the process of converting from analog to digital operation and that stations may have pending applications to construct and operate digital television facilities, construction permits and/or licenses for such digital facilities. Bidders should investigate the impact such applications, permits and licenses may have on their ability to operate the facilities proposed in this auction.

V. Conclusion

39. Comments are due on or before April 25, 2003, and reply comments are due on or before May 2, 2003. Because of the disruption of regular mail and other deliveries in Washington, DC, the Bureaus require that all comments and reply comments be filed electronically. Comments and reply comments must be sent by electronic mail to the following address: auction54@fcc.gov. The electronic mail containing the comments or reply comments must include a subject or caption referring to Auction No. 54 Comments. The Bureaus request that parties format any attachments to electronic mail as Adobe® Acrobat® (pdf) or Microsoft® Word documents. Copies of comments and reply comments will be available for public inspection during regular business hours in the FCC Public Reference Room, Room CY-A257, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.

40. In addition, the Bureaus request that commenters fax a courtesy copy of their comments and reply comments to the attention of Kathryn Garland at (717) 338-2850.

41. This proceeding has been designated as a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission's ex parte rules. Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentations must contain summaries of the substance of the presentations and not merely a listing of the subjects discussed. More than a one or two sentence description of the views and arguments presented is generally required. Other rules pertaining to oral and written ex parte presentations in permit-but-disclose proceedings are set forth in § 1.1206(b) of the Commission's rules.

Start Signature

Federal Communications Commission.

Margaret Wiener,

Chief, Auctions and Industry Analysis Division, WTB.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 03-10000 Filed 4-21-03; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6712-01-P