The FCC has just released a Public Notice with the final application and bidding procedures for participation in the EBS “White Space” auction (called Auction 108). The Public Notice can be found here: FCC-22-24A1.pdf. The auction will offer about 8,000 new EBS licenses for areas (mostly rural) throughout the country where there is currently unassigned EBS spectrum. Because EBS spectrum is already heavily encumbered by over 2000 existing licenses, in many cases auctioned licenses will only authorize operation in small irregular shaped areas in-between existing licenses.
|The pertinent deadlines are as follows:|
|Auction Tutorial Available (via Internet)||No later than April 5, 2022|
|Short Form Application Window Opens||April 27, 2022, at 12 Noon Eastern Time|
|Short Form Application Deadline||May 10, 2022, at 6 pm Eastern Time|
|Upfront Payments Due||June 23, 2022, at 6 pm Eastern Time|
|Bidding Tutorial Available (via Internet)||No later than July 13, 2022|
|Mock FCC Auction||July 26-27, 2022|
|Bidding Begins in Auction 108||July 29, 2022|
Licenses will be auctioned on a county-by-county basis, with three possible licenses available in each county – Channel Block 1 (EBS Channels A1-A3, B1-B3 and C1-C3, totaling 49.5 MHz), Channel Block 2 (EBS Channels D1-D3, the J Channels, and Channels A4-G4, totaling 50.5 MHz), and Channel Block 3 (EBS Channels G1-G3 and the K Channels associated with the G group, a total of 17.5 MHz). Any given channel block will only be auctioned if there is one or more unassigned channels in that block in some geographic area of the county. There are many U.S. counties where no license is available in the auction.
The FCC’s final inventory of licenses to be auctioned can be found here: https://www.fcc.gov/file/22848/download. The inventory shows, on a state-by-state basis, which counties have available licenses, which channel blocks are available, the population in the entire county (which is used by the FCC to calculate upfront payments and minimum opening bid amounts), and the upfront and opening bid amounts.
The licenses to be auctioned are what the FCC calls “overlay” licenses. That means that even though the licenses theoretically cover the entire applicable county and channel block, the license only actually authorizes operation in those areas of the county and on those EBS channels where there is no currently existing license. The FCC has a “mapping tool” to help potential bidders figure out the amount of spectrum actually available in areas of each county. That tool is available on the FCC Auction 108 website here: https://www.fcc.gov/auction/108/education.
The Public Notice states that “[a]pplicants are solely responsible for identifying associated risks and for investigating and evaluating the degree to which such matters may affect their ability to bid on, otherwise acquire, or make use of the licenses in Auction 108.” Anyone contemplating participation in the auction will need to undertake its own due diligence, including by commissioning an engineering study to confirm where “white space” exists, the frequencies that will be available in that white space, current licenses that surround that white space, the population in the white space, and so forth.
Unfortunately, the auction process is likely to be extremely difficult for educators to navigate, which is why the EBS community including NEBSA consistently opposed using auctions to award EBS licenses. Anyone reading the Public Notice will understand that the auction process will be complex. There are rules about ownership disclosure including of attributable affiliated interests (for example, of your officers and board members), anti-collusion, bidding credits for small businesses and rural service providers, upfront payments and bidding eligibility, bidding procedures themselves, post-auction down-payments and final payments. Ultimately, each prospective applicant will need to consult with its own counsel and other experts to determine whether it makes sense to enter the auction and, if so, how to overcome the challenges of participation.
Final Auction 108 Inventory List (MS Excel Format)