FCC Delays H Block Auction Due To Federal Shutdown Disruptions

The Telecommunications Law Resource Center is the most comprehensive reference and news platform for communications law, covering broadcasting, cable, broadband, telephony and wireless;...

By Bryce Baschuk  

Oct. 21 --The Federal Communications Commission said it will delay the agency's first spectrum auction since 2008, according to an announcement issued Oct. 21.

The auction of 10 MHz of spectrum in the lower (1915-1920 MHz) and upper (1995-2000 MHz) H block bands will now occur on Jan. 22, 2014, eight days later than the originally scheduled date of Jan. 14, 2014. The FCC previously set a reserve price of $1.56 billion that it said will partially fund the build-out of a nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety officials overseen by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

The commission said the delay was “necessary to give potential bidders and Commission staff additional time for planning and preparation for Auction 96 upon the resumption of regular Commission operations.” The federal government shutdown from Oct. 1 to Oct. 16 forced the FCC to furlough 98 percent of its 1,754 employees and suspend its work on spectrum auctions along with nearly all other issues before the commission.

Following the shutdown, acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said the FCC's No. 1 priority is to “resume normal operations as soon as possible, and the Commission's dedicated staff is working hard toward that goal,” according to a news release. “We have already taken immediate steps to remedy disruptions caused by the shutdown and will be issuing further guidance very soon,” she said.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee had previously warned that the federal government shutdown could delay the H block and other planned spectrum auctions. Committee Democrats led by ranking member Henry Waxman (Calif.) wrote an Oct. 15 letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that urged him to open the government or risk delays to federal spectrum auctions aimed at funding FirstNet.

It is unclear whether the FCC also will delay the timing of its two other planned auctions of the 2155-2180 MHz band and the broadcast incentive auctions. An FCC spokesman said the commission had no comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Washington at bbaschuk@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com