FCC Won't Halt Airwaves Sale After TV Station Wins Inclusion

  • Agency issues statement after rebuke by appeals court
  • Airwaves auction to commence March 29, FCC says in statement

The Federal Communications Commission said it won’t delay an auction of airwaves after a court said the agency must reverse course and allow a Florida TV station to participate.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday granted the request made last month by Latina Broadcasters of Daytona Beach LLC. The operator of WDYB sued the FCC after the regulator ruled it ineligible, contending that decision was arbitrary.

In the auction set to start March 29, the FCC will buy airwaves voluntarily surrendered by television stations, then resell them for billions of dollars to mobile providers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc, which want more frequencies to feed growing demand from smartphones and other wireless devices.

Allowing the Daytona Beach broadcaster to do so at such a late date would “delay the start of the auction by several weeks,” by forcing changes in conditions that must be met at each step of its so-called “repacking” process, the FCC said in court papers opposing the WDYB request, filed on March 4.

The court said it was basing its ruling on FCC website information indicating the regulator’s agency auction data and other projections were based on the assumption of WDYB’s eligibility.

Begins March 29

In an e-mailed statement Friday, the FCC said the auction “will commence on March 29, as scheduled.”

Still before the court is a decision in a related case filed by The Videohouse Inc. which operates a low-power Pittsburgh TV station and is also seeking a court order allowing it to participate and delay the auction until its case can be heard.

The regulator has said that either outcome will “cause substantial delay and resulting harm to the public.”

The case is Latina Broadcasters of Daytona Beach LLC v. Federal Communications Commission, 16-1065 and 16-1069, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).

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