Auction 106: FCC announces procedures and filing freeze; REC announces services for auction participants including NCE.
The FCC has issued a public notice regarding the upcoming FM broadcast auction #106. In this auction, 130 FM allotments will be available for auction with opening bids ranging from $750 to $100,000 based on market size and other factors.
Between January 29, 2020 and February 11, 2020, if someone wants to participate in the auction, they will need to file FCC Form 175 electronically. This form will ask a lot of questions about the applicant and it will also allow them to select which construction permits they want to apply for. There will also be questions about bidding credits for which the applicant may qualify for. (Bidding credits are normally for those with 3 or less other broadcast holdings including noncommercial educational stations)
Sometime after February 11, a public notice will be issued that identifies who is qualified to participate in the auction and any applications with defects on them that need to be fixed. The FCC will have a window for those applicants who need to fix their Form 175 applications.
For those applicants who are eventually determined to be eligible to participate in the auction, they will need to make an upfront payment. The upfront payment is the amount shown as the minimum opening bid for the permit (not including bidding credits). Upfront payments are submitted by wire transfer. Upfront payments are refundable if the bidder is unsuccessful in the auction. Upfront payments are due by March 20, 2020.
On April 28, the actual auction begins. Auctions are normally done in "rounds" with multiple "rounds" during the day.
Once the auction is over, winners must submit a down payment of 20% of the winning bid minus bidding credits and minus the up front payment within 10 days of the auction closing. The remainder is due 10 business days after that.
Within 30 days of winning the auction, a Schedule 301-FM must be filed, which will be the actual long form application for the broadcast facility. The facility proposed must meet the rules and not change the city of license but must place a 70 dB contour over that city of license.
Filing Freeze for full-service from 1/29~2/11, 2020
In a separate public notice, the FCC has announced a filing freeze for commercial and noncommercial educational (NCE) minor change applications during the Form 175 filing window between January 29 and February 11, 2020. LPFM, FM translators and FM boosters are not subject to this filing freeze.
Non-commercial educational use of an allotment
NCE entities can file Form 175 in this window. If they want to be exempt from the auction, they can specify that they want to participate as a NCE entity. If a competing Form 175 is received from a commercial entity, the NCE entity's Form 175 will not be accepted for filing as commercial trumps noncommercial in an auction proceeding. NCE entities can also claim commercial and participate in the auction (where they will have to make upfront payments and bid like a commercial entity and pay if they are the winner) and then if the winner, can file their long form as a noncommercial educational entity thus making them exempt from filing fees.
Once the Form 175 window is closed (after February 11), an applicant's status can't be changed from commercial to non-commercial or vice versa.
In the extremely rare case where multiple Form 175s claiming noncommercial are filed for a particular allotment, then NCE rules regarding mutual exclusitivity would apply.
Filing NCE is risky but may work if you are looking at an allotment that is very rural in nature and undesirable by commercial interests. Keep in mind though, spectrum auctions do attract speculators. It does not hurt to try but there's no guarantee of success.
If an NCE is granted an allotment in this window, they must follow the commercial FM technical rules meaning that the site chosen must be able to place a 70 dBu coverage contour over the designated community of license and operate between the minimum and maximum power and height for the designated station class. Changes to other nearby communities of license are very complicated but may be possible in the future.
REC services for Auction 106
REC will provide services to assist in Form 175 filings for commercial applicants and those who want to try the risky noncommercial educational avenue. REC's fee for 175 filings will be $350.
Entities wishing to participate that do not have an FRN should obtain one from the FCC CORES system. The entity name on the filed Form 175 must exactly match the entity name in CORES for that FRN. If you need to file under a different name, you must obtain a different FRN and the Form 175 name must be an exact match to that FRN's information.
Applicants choosing the commercial (not NCE) option on Form 175 are responsible for the wire transfer of the upfront payments to the FCC as well as participating in the bid rounds. REC does not provide any assistance in the bidding process. If the applicant wins the auction, they are responsible for the wire transfer for the winning bid. The applicant is also responsible for requesting refunds from the FCC if they end up not being the successful bidder. Applicants are also responsible for making the appropriate public notices in accordance with §73.3580 of the rules (both commercial and NCE).
Upon winning the auction (or if only noncommercial Form 175s are filed), the "long form" (schedule 301-FM) must be filed within 30 days of notification. Normal REC filing processes apply for these applications. For small/medium market (51+) or noncommercial stations not requiring a directional antenna (§73.215), REC's fees will start at $1,650 for the Schedule 301-FM filing and if constructed without any major conditions, also include the Schedule 302 License to Cover.
Fees to REC for handling the 175 and the 301-FM forms are separately paid but are payable up front through secure online credit card payment and no refunds are provided. Applicant is responsible for FCC filing fees.
For assistance, please contact REC at 202 621-2355. REC will not accept more than one Form 175 client on any one available construction permit. This is to protect the applicant/client and is in the spirit of the FCC rules prohibiting collusion.
PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU READ THE PUBLIC NOTICE AND UNDERSTAND THE VARIOUS AUCTION RULES BEFORE MAKING YOUR DECISION TO MOVE FORWARD IN THE AUCTION.