Updated: FCC Sets Ground Rules for 700 MHz Auction

By Deborah McAdams and Brian Dolan


Google: Never said we wouldn't bid

Update: Following today's FCC meeting, Google's senior counsel Richard Whitt made it clear Google has not decided to sit this auction out. Whitt notes that the company never said it would not bid if its four openness rules were not adopted for the C Block of the spectrum auction. Google just said that it would bid if they were! Whitt, however, cautioned that the company needs to review the details of the FCC's plan once they come out in full during the course of the next few weeks before the company can make any definitive decisions.


The FCC Meeting

The FCC 700 MHz Auction Rules were unanimously approved today, with a partial dissent from Commissioner Robert McDowell, who felt the open access requirement would drive the big companies into auctions intended for smaller companies. Below are some of the details of the rules as described at today's FCC meeting:

  • BUILD-OUT BENCHMARKS:
    • GEOGRAPHIC: For spectrum designated CMA (Cellular Market Areas) and EA (Economic Areas), licensees must provide service to 35 percent of the geographic area of their license within four years; 70 percent by the end of the 10-year license term.
    • POPULATION: For spectrum designated REAG (Regional Economic Area Grouping), licensees must provide service to 40 percent of the population of their license areas within four years; 75 percent by the end of the 10-year license term.
    • FAILURE: If licensee fails to meet benchmarks, the license term is reduced to eight years and end terms accelerated.
    • RE-AUCTION: If end terms are not achieved, the license automatically reclaims the unserved portion of the license area for re-auction.
  • PUBLIC SAFETY:
    • PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP: Provides for public-private partnership on national first responder communications network.
    • First responders have first right of refusal if partnership fails.
  • OPEN ACCESS
    • 22 MHz: the C block in the upper band, will be subject to open access rules.
    • DEVICE/APPLICATION AGNOSTIC: Would allow people to use the "handset" and applications of their choice on the network created in the upper C block, subject to network management and security concerns.
  • AUCTION PROCEDURES:
    • BLIND BIDDING: Bidders will be allowed to remain anonymous, and information indicating their interest, intentions and the spectrum they're bidding on is withheld until after the auction is closed.
    • PACKAGE BIDDING: Allowed in upper C block for bidders looking to create a nationwide network.
  • RESERVE PRICES:
    • $4.6 billion: Upper C block.
    • No other reserve prices were revealed at the meeting.
  • WHOLESALE REQUIREMENTS
    • NONE

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