History of Incentive Auctions

Congress recognized the revolutionary possibilities presented by the FCC’s incentive auction proposal and, in passing the Spectrum Act in early 2012, authorized the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, with the first auction to be of broadcast television spectrum.

The 2010 National Broadband Plan introduced the idea of incentive auctions as a tool to help meet the nation’s spectrum needs. Incentive auctions are a voluntary, market-based means of repurposing spectrum by encouraging licensees to voluntarily relinquish spectrum usage rights in exchange for a share of the proceeds from an auction of new licenses to use the repurposed spectrum.

Congress recognized the revolutionary possibilities presented by the FCC’s incentive auction proposal and, in passing the Spectrum Act in early 2012, authorized the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, with the first auction to be of broadcast television spectrum.

The broadcast television spectrum incentive auction will be the first such auction ever attempted anywhere in the world. It will be a groundbreaking event for the broadcast television, mobile wireless and technology sectors of our economy. The auction presents a significant financial opportunity for many broadcasters, and we expect it to enhance the ability of broadcasters who remain on the air to continue providing the public with diverse, local, free over-the-air television service. At the same time, the spectrum reclaimed through the incentive auction will promote economic growth and enhance America’s global competitiveness by increasing the speed, capacity and ubiquity of mobile broadband services such as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi-like networks. In turn, this will accelerate the smartphone- and tablet-led mobile revolution, benefitting consumers and businesses throughout the country.

In May 2014, the FCC adopted rules to implement the Broadcast Television Incentive Auction. The rules establish the foundation for the Incentive Auction. Based on these rules the FCC will develop and seek additional public input on detailed, final auction procedures in the pre-auction process.