FCC: Open access but no wholesale requirement

The FCC commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the auction plan, which is based squarely on FCC chairman Kevin Martin's much debated proposal.

Commercial Spectrum
The final rules include a requirement for "open access," which in this case means the winning bidder must allow "any device" and "any application" for the C Block of spectrum. There is, however, no requirement for wholesaling the C Block spectrum. Also, the final ruling did not answer Google's little discussed fourth request for openness. By calling for "open networks," Google wanted third parties to be able to interconnect at a technically feasible point in the wireless network to enable geolocation and similar services for content providers.

Public Safety/Private Partnership Spectrum
As expected, the FCC also ruled that "the Upper D Block commercial licensee and the public safety broadband licensee will form a public safety/private partnership to develop a shared, nationwide interoperable network for both commercial and public safety users." The terms of the deal between the two parties will be governed by FCC rules and rules set forth by the sharing agreement. That agreement "is subject to FCC approval, and must contain certain provisions such as service fees and a detailed build-out schedule for the network," according to the FCC.

Anonymous Bidding
The FCC will use "anonymous" bidding procedures, in which any information that may indicate specific applicants' interests in the auction, including their license selections and bidding activity, is withheld until after the close of the auction. The FCC said it will require these measures irrespective of any pre-auction measurement of likely competition in the auction.

Fail Safes
While the FCC has not released any of the reserve prices for each slice of spectrum, save the $4.6 billion for the Upper C Block slice, if any block of spectrum fails to meet its reserve the commission will re-auction it without special provisions at a later date. Winning bidders won't necessarily keep their spectrum either if they don't live up to FCC's demands: The commission has put forth various benchmarks for each slice of spectrum that include build out times and coverage saturation by various deadlines. If licensees fail to meet the four-year, interim geographic or population benchmark, the license term will be reduced from ten to eight years, which means the licensee will have to meet their end goals on an accelerated schedule. If winning bidders fail to meet the end-of-term buildout requirements, the FCC will reclaim unserved portions of the spectrum and make it available to other users.

For the full details:
- read this press release from the FCC

UPDATE: The FCC commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the auctions rules. Commissioner McDowell only deferred in part.