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Notice

Auction of FM Broadband Radio Service (BRS) Licenses Scheduled for October 27, 2009; Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Auction 86

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AGENCY:

Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

This document announces the auction of unassigned Broadband Radio Service (BRS) licenses scheduled to commence on October 27, 2009 (Auction 86). This document also seeks comments on competitive bidding procedures for Auction 86.

DATES:

Comments are due on or before May 15, 2009, and reply comments are due on or before May 29, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

Comments and reply comments must be identified by AU Docket No. 09-56. Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the Federal Communications Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) at http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs. Filers should follow the instructions provided on the Web site for submitting comments. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau requests that a copy of all comments and reply comments be submitted electronically to the following address: auction86@fcc.gov. In addition, comments and reply comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

  • Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and four copies of each filing. Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail (although the Bureaus continue to experience delays in receiving U.S. Postal Service mail). All filings must be addressed to the Commission's Secretary, Attn: WTB/ASAD, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
  • The Commission's contractor will receive hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission's Secretary at 236 Massachusetts Avenue, NE., Suite 110, Washington, DC 20002. The filing hours at this location are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
  • U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail should be addressed to 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554.
  • People With Disabilities: Contact the FCC to request reasonable accommodations (accessible format documents, sign language interpreters, CART, etc.) by e-mail: FCC504@fcc.gov or telephone: 202-418-0530 or TTY: 202-418-0432.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Auctions and Spectrum Access Division: For auction legal questions: Sayuri Rajapakse at (202) 418-0660. For general auction questions: Jeff Crooks at (202) 418-0660 or Lisa Stover at (717) 338-2868; Broadband Division: For BRS service rule questions: Nancy Zaczek (legal) or Stephen Zak (technical) at (202) 418-2487.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This is a summary of the Auction 86 Comment Public Notice released on April 24, 2009. The complete text of the Auction 86 Comment Public Notice, including Attachments A and B, and related Commission documents, are available for public inspection and copying from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday or from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET on Fridays in the FCC Reference Information Center, 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-A257, Washington, DC 20554. The Auction 86 Comment Public Notice and related Commission documents also may be purchased from the Commission's duplicating contractor, Best Copy and Printing, Inc. (BCPI), 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554, telephone 202-488-5300, facsimile 202-488-5563, or you may contact BCPI at its Web site: http://www.BCPIWEB.com. When ordering documents from BCPI, please provide the appropriate FCC document number, for example, DA 09-843. The Auction 86 Comment Public Notice and related documents also are available on the Internet at the Commission's website: http://wireless.fcc.gov/​auctions/​86/​, or by using the search function for AU Docket No. 09-56 on the ECFS Web page at http://www.fcc.gov/​cgb/​ecfs/​.

I. Licenses To Be Offered in Auction 86

1. The licenses to be offered in Auction 86 consist of the available spectrum in 78 BRS service areas. BRS service areas are BTAs or additional service areas similar to BTAs adopted by the Commission. Overlay licenses for 75 of the BTAs originally offered in Auction 6 are available now as a result of default, cancellation, or termination. This auction will also include three Start Printed Page 22167additional licenses for BRS service areas in the Gulf of Mexico. A complete list of licenses available for Auction 86 is included as Attachment A of the Auction 86 Comment Public Notice.

2. Where unencumbered, the licenses to be auctioned consist of 76.5 megahertz of spectrum at 2496-2502, 2602-2614, 2614-2615, 2616-2618, and 2618-2673.5 MHz. The Bureau notes that the licenses issued pursuant to this auction will be issued pursuant to the post-transition band plan contained in 47 CFR 27.5(i)(2). A table showing the channelization of this spectrum is included as Attachment B of the Auction 86 Comment Public Notice.

3. Incumbency Issues. There are pre-existing BRS incumbent licenses. The service area for each of those site-based licenses is a 35-mile circle centered at the station's reference coordinates, and is bounded by the chord(s) drawn between the intersection points of the licensee's previous protected service area and those of respective adjacent market, co-channel licensees. Any licenses granted pursuant to this auction will not include the geographic service areas of any overlapping, co-channel incumbent licenses. If an incumbent license cancels or is forfeited, however, the right to operate within that area shall revert to the overlay licensee that holds the license for the BRS service area that encompasses that BTA. BRS incumbent licenses are entitled to interference protection in accordance with the applicable technical rules.

4. In addition, on the E and F channel groups, grandfathered Educational Broadband Service licenses originally issued on those channels prior to 1983 may continue to operate indefinitely. Such grandfathered EBS licenses must be protected in accordance with the applicable technical rules.

5. Operations within the 2614-2618 MHz band are secondary to adjacent channel operations.

6. Finally, in the 2496-2500 MHz band, BRS licensees must share the band on a co-primary basis with the Code Division Multiple Access Mobile Satellite Service, grandfathered Broadcast Auxiliary Service stations, and grandfathered land mobile and microwave licenses licensed under Parts 90 and 101 of the Commission's rules, respectively. In addition, the 2400-2500 MHz band is allocated for use by Industrial, Scientific, and Medical equipment under Part 18 of the Commission's rules.

II. Bureau Seeks Comment on Auction Procedures

A. Auction Structure

i. Simultaneous Multiple-Round Auction Design

7. The Bureau proposed to auction all licenses included in Auction 86 using the Commission's standard simultaneous multiple-round auction format. This type of auction offers every license for bid at the same time and consists of successive bidding rounds in which eligible bidders may place bids on individual licenses. Typically, bidding remains open on all licenses until bidding stops on every license. The Bureau seeks comment on this proposal.

ii. Anonymous Bidding

8. The Bureau proposes to conduct Auction 86 using certain procedures for limited information disclosure or anonymous bidding. Specifically, the Bureau proposes to withhold, until after the close of bidding, public release of (1) Bidders' license selections on their short-form applications (FCC Form 175), (2) the amounts of bidders' upfront payments and bidding eligibility, and (3) information that may reveal the identities of bidders placing bids and taking other bidding-related actions.

9. The Bureau seeks comment on the details regarding our proposal for implementation of anonymous bidding in Auction 86, and on alternative proposals for anonymous bidding or other information disclosure procedures.

iii. Bidding Rounds

10. Auction 86 will consist of sequential bidding rounds. The initial bidding schedule will be announced in a public notice to be released at least one week before the start of the auction.

11. The Commission will conduct Auction 86 over the Internet, and telephonic bidding will be available as well. The toll-free telephone number for the Auction Bidder Line will be provided to qualified bidders.

12. The Bureau proposes to retain 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. Under this proposal, the Bureau may change the amount of time for bidding rounds, the amount of time between rounds, or the number of rounds per day, depending upon bidding activity and other factors. The Bureau seeks comment on this proposal. Commenters may wish to address the role of the bidding schedule in managing the pace of the auction and the tradeoffs in managing auction pace by bidding schedule changes, by changing the activity requirements or bid amount parameters, or by using other means.

iv. Stopping Rule

13. For Auction 86, the Bureau proposes to employ a simultaneous stopping rule approach. A simultaneous stopping rule means that all licenses remain available for bidding until bidding closes simultaneously on all licenses. More specifically, bidding will close simultaneously on all licenses after the first round in which no bidder submits any new bids, applies a proactive waiver, or withdraws any provisionally winning bids. Thus, unless the Bureau announces alternative stopping procedures, bidding will remain open on all licenses until bidding stops on every license. Consequently, it is not possible to determine in advance how long the auction will last.

14. Further, the Bureau proposes to retain the discretion to exercise any of the following options during Auction 86: (1) Use a modified version of the simultaneous stopping rule. The modified stopping rule would close the auction for all licenses after the first round in which no bidder applies a waiver, withdraws a provisionally winning bid, or places any new bids on any license for which it is not the provisionally winning bidder. Thus, absent any other bidding activity, a bidder placing a new bid on a license for which it is the provisionally winning bidder would not keep the auction open under this modified stopping rule; (2) declare that the auction will end after a specified number of additional rounds (special stopping rule). If the Bureau invokes this special stopping rule, it will accept bids in the specified final round(s) after which the auction will close; and (3) keep the auction open even if no bidder submits any new bids, applies a waiver, or withdraws any provisionally winning bids. In this event, the effect will be the same as if a bidder had applied a waiver. The activity rule, therefore, will apply as usual and a bidder with insufficient activity will either lose bidding eligibility or use a waiver.

15. The Bureau proposed to exercise these options only in certain circumstances, for example, where the auction is proceeding unusually slowly or quickly, there is minimal overall bidding activity, or it appears likely that the auction will not close within a reasonable period of time or will close Start Printed Page 22168prematurely. Before exercising certain of these options, the Bureau is likely to attempt to change the pace of the auction by, for example, changing the number of bidding rounds per day and/or changing minimum acceptable bids. The Bureau proposes to retain the discretion to exercise any of these options with or without prior announcement during the auction. The Bureau seeks comment on these proposals.

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

16. For Auction 86, the Bureau proposes 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, administrative or weather necessity, evidence of an auction security breach or unlawful bidding activity, or for any other reason that affects the fair and efficient conduct of competitive bidding. The Bureau seeks comment on this proposal.

B. Auction Procedures

i. Upfront Payments and Bidding Eligibility

17. The Bureau proposes that the amount of the upfront payment submitted by a bidder will determine the bidder's initial bidding eligibility in bidding units. The Bureau proposes that each license be assigned a specific number of bidding units equal to the upfront payment listed in Attachment A of the Auction 86 Comment Public Notice.

18. The proposed number of bidding units for each license and associated upfront payment amounts are listed in Attachment A. The Bureau seeks comment on these proposals.

ii. Activity Rule

19. In order to ensure that the auction closes within a reasonable period of time, an activity rule requires bidders to bid actively throughout the auction, rather than wait until late in the auction before participating. A bidder's activity in a round will be the sum of the bidding units associated with any licenses upon which it places bids during the current round and the bidding units associated with any licenses for which it holds provisionally winning bids. Bidders are required to be active on a specific percentage of their current bidding eligibility during each round of the auction. 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 eligibility, possibly curtailing or eliminating the bidder's ability to place additional bids in the auction.

20. The Bureau proposes to divide the auction into at least two stages, each characterized by a different activity requirement. The auction will start in Stage One. The Bureau proposes to advance the auction to the next stage by announcement during the auction. In exercising this discretion, the Bureau will consider a variety of measures of auction activity, including but not limited to the percentage of licenses (as measured in bidding units) on which there are new bids, the number of new bids, and the increase in revenue. The Bureau seeks comment on these proposals.

iii. Activity Rule Waivers and Reducing Eligibility

21. Use of an activity rule waiver preserves the bidder's 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, not to particular licenses. Activity rule waivers can be either proactive or automatic and are principally a mechanism for bidders to avoid the loss of bidding eligibility in the event that exigent circumstances prevent them from bidding in a particular round.

22. The Bureau proposes that each bidder in Auction 86 be provided with three activity rule waivers that may be used as set forth above at the bidder's discretion during the course of the auction. The Bureau seeks comment on this proposal.

iv. Reserve Price or Minimum Opening Bids

23. The Bureau proposes to establish minimum opening bid amounts for Auction 86. The Bureau believes a minimum opening bid amount, which has been used in other auctions, is an effective bidding tool for accelerating the competitive bidding process. The Bureau does not propose a separate reserve price for the licenses to be offered in Auction 86. Specifically, for Auction 86, the Bureau proposes to calculate minimum opening bid amounts on a license-by-license basis using a formula based on bandwidth and license area population. The Bureau seeks comment on this approach, and, whether, consistent with Section 309(j), the public interest would be served by having no minimum opening bid amount or reserve price.

v. Bid Amounts

24. The Bureau proposes that, in each round, eligible bidders be able to place a bid on a given license using one or more pre-defined bid amounts. Under this proposal, the FCC Auction System interface will list the acceptable bid amounts for each license.

a. Minimum Acceptable Bids

25. The first of the acceptable bid amounts is called the minimum acceptable bid amount. The minimum acceptable bid amount for a license will be equal to its minimum opening bid amount until there is a provisionally winning bid on the license. After there is a provisionally winning bid for a license, the minimum acceptable bid amount for that license will be equal to the amount of the provisionally winning bid plus a percentage of that bid amount. In general, the percentage will be higher for a license receiving many bids than for a license receiving few bids. In the case of a license for which the provisionally winning bid has been withdrawn, the minimum acceptable bid amount will equal the second highest bid received for the license.

26. The percentage of the provisionally winning bid used to establish the minimum acceptable bid amount (the additional percentage) is calculated at the end of each round, based on an activity index. The activity index is a weighted average of (a) the number of distinct bidders placing a bid on the license, and (b) the activity index from the prior round. Specifically, the activity index is equal to a weighting factor times the number of bidders placing a bid covering the license in the most recent bidding round plus one minus the weighting factor times the activity index from the prior round. The additional percentage is determined as one plus the activity index times a minimum percentage amount, with the result not to exceed a given maximum. The additional percentage is then multiplied by the provisionally winning bid amount to obtain the minimum acceptable bid for the next round. The Bureau proposes initially to set the weighting factor at 0.5, the minimum percentage at 0.1 (10%), and the maximum percentage at 0.3 (30%). Hence, at these initial settings, the minimum acceptable bid for a license will be between ten percent and thirty percent higher than the provisionally winning bid, depending upon the bidding activity for the license.

b. Additional Bid Amounts

27. Any additional bid amounts are calculated using the minimum Start Printed Page 22169acceptable bid amount and a bid increment percentage—more specifically, by multiplying the minimum acceptable bid by one plus successively higher multiples of the bid increment percentage. If, for example, the bid increment percentage is ten percent, the calculation of the first additional acceptable bid amount is (minimum acceptable bid amount) * (1 + 0.05), or (minimum acceptable bid amount) * 1.05; the second additional acceptable bid amount equals the minimum acceptable bid amount times one plus two times the bid increment percentage, or (minimum acceptable bid amount) * 1.1, etc. The Bureau will round the results of these calculations and the minimum acceptable bid calculations using the Bureau's standard rounding procedures. The Bureau proposes to set the bid increment percentage at 0.05.

28. The Bureau seeks comment on whether to start with eight additional bid amounts (for a total of nine bid amounts) or with fewer or no additional bid amounts for Auction 86. In particular, commenters should address the issue of additional bid amounts in light of particular circumstances of Auction 86, including the nature of the license inventory. The Bureau retains the discretion to change the minimum acceptable bid amounts, the additional bid amounts, the number of acceptable bid amounts, and the parameters of the formulas used to calculate minimum acceptable bid amounts and additional bid amounts if it determines that circumstances so dictate. Further, the Bureau retains the discretion to do so on a license-by-license basis.

29. The Bureau also retains the discretion to limit (a) the amount by which a minimum acceptable bid for a license may increase compared with the corresponding provisionally winning bid, and (b) the amount by which an additional bid amount may increase compared with the immediately preceding acceptable bid amount. The Bureau seeks comment on the circumstances under which it should employ such a limit, factors it should consider when determining the dollar amount of the limit, and the tradeoffs in setting such a limit or changing parameters of the activity-based formula, such as changing the minimum percentage. If the Bureau exercises this discretion, it will alert bidders by announcement in the FCC Auction System. The Bureau seeks comment on the above proposals.

vi. Provisionally Winning Bids

30. Provisionally winning bids are bids that would become final winning bids if the auction were to close in that given round. At the end of a bidding round, a provisionally winning bid for each license will be determined based on the highest bid amount received for the license. In the event of identical high bid amounts being submitted on a license in a given round (i.e., tied bids), we will use a random number generator to select a single provisionally winning bid from among the tied bids. (Each bid is assigned a random number, and the tied bid with the highest random number wins the tiebreaker.) The remaining bidders, as well as the provisionally winning bidder, can submit higher bids in subsequent rounds. However, if the auction were to end with no other bids being placed, the winning bidder would be the one that placed the provisionally winning bid. If any bids are received on the license in a subsequent round, the provisionally winning bid again will be determined by the highest bid amount received for the license.

31. A provisionally winning bid will remain the provisionally winning bid until there is a higher bid on the license at the close of a subsequent round, unless the provisionally winning bid is withdrawn. Bidders are reminded that provisionally winning bids count toward activity for purposes of the activity rule.

vii. Bid Removal

32. For Auction 86, the Bureau proposes and seeks comment on the following bid removal procedures. Before the close of a bidding round, a bidder has the option of removing any bid placed in that round. By removing selected bids in the FCC Auction System, a bidder may effectively undo any of its bids placed within that round.

viii. Bid Withdrawal

33. A bidder may withdraw its provisionally winning bids using the withdraw bids function in the FCC Auction System. A bidder that withdraws its provisionally winning bid(s) is subject to the bid withdrawal payment provisions of the Commission rules.

34. For Auction 86, the Bureau proposes to limit each bidder to withdrawing provisionally winning bids in only one round during the course of the auction. To permit a bidder to withdraw bids in more than one round may encourage insincere bidding or the use of withdrawals for anti-competitive purposes. The round in which withdrawals may be used will be at the bidder's discretion, and there is no limit on the number of provisionally winning bids that may be withdrawn during that round. Withdrawals must be in accordance with the Commission's rules, including the bid withdrawal payment provisions specified in 47 CFR 1.2104(g). The Bureau seeks comment on these bid withdrawal procedures.

C. Post-Auction Procedures

i. Establishing the Interim Withdrawal Payment Percentage

35. The Bureau seeks comment on the appropriate percentage of a withdrawn bid that should be assessed as an interim withdrawal payment in the event that a final withdrawal payment cannot be determined at the close of the auction. Balancing the potential need for bidders to use withdrawals to avoid winning incomplete combinations of licenses with our interest in deterring abuses of our bidding procedures, the Bureau proposes an interim bid withdrawal payment level of fifteen percent for Auction 86.

36. In general, the Commission's rules provide that a bidder that withdraws a bid during an auction is subject to a withdrawal payment equal to the difference between the amount of the withdrawn bid and the amount of the winning bid in the same or subsequent auction(s). If a bid is withdrawn and no subsequent higher bid is placed and/or the license is not won in the same auction, the final withdrawal payment cannot be calculated until after the close of a subsequent auction in which a higher bid for the license (or the equivalent to the license) is placed or the license is won. When that final payment cannot yet be calculated, the bidder responsible for the withdrawn bid is assessed an interim bid withdrawal payment, which will be applied toward any final bid withdrawal payment that is ultimately assessed. 47 CFR 1.2104(g)(1) of the Commission rules requires that the percentage of the withdrawn bid to be assessed as an interim bid withdrawal payment be between three percent and twenty percent and that it be set in advance of the auction.

37. The Commission has determined that the level of the interim withdrawal payment in a particular auction will be based on the nature of the service and the inventory of the licenses being offered. The Commission has noted that it may impose a higher interim withdrawal payment percentage to deter the anti-competitive use of withdrawals when, for example, bidders likely will not need to aggregate the licenses being offered in the auction, such as when few licenses are offered that are on adjacent frequencies or in adjacent areas, or Start Printed Page 22170when there are few synergies to be captured by combining licenses.

38. For Auction 86, it is not possible to combine licenses across multiple frequency blocks in a given geographic area, and opportunities for combining licenses in adjacent areas are somewhat limited, so there is likely to be little need to use withdrawals to protect against incomplete aggregations. Therefore, the Bureau proposes to establish the percentage of the withdrawn bid to be assessed as an interim bid withdrawal payment at fifteen percent for this auction. The Bureau seeks comment on this proposal.

ii. Establishing the Additional Default Payment Percentage

39. Any winning bidder that, after the close of an auction, defaults—by, for example, failing to remit the required down payment within the prescribed period of time, to submit a timely long-form application, or to make full payment—or is otherwise disqualified is liable for a default payment under 47 CFR 1.2104(g)(2). This payment consists of a deficiency payment, equal to the difference between the amount of the bidder's bid and the amount of the winning bid the next time a license covering the same spectrum is won in an auction, plus an additional payment equal to a percentage of the defaulter's bid or of the subsequent winning bid, whichever is less.

40. As previously noted by the Commission, defaults weaken the integrity of the auctions process and impede the deployment of service to the public. Given the nature of the service and the inventory of the licenses being offered in Auction 86, the Bureau believes that an additional default payment percentage of fifteen percent will provide a sufficient deterrent to defaults. Accordingly, the Bureau proposes an additional default payment of fifteen percent of the relevant bid for Auction 86 and seeks comment on this proposal.

III. Commission ex parte Rules

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 47 CFR 1.1206(b).

Start Signature

Federal Communications Commission.

Gary D. Michaels,

Deputy Chief, Auctions and Spectrum Access Division, WTB.

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[FR Doc. E9-11076 Filed 5-11-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6712-01-P