For about a year now, the FCC has been auctioning off parts of their over the air television spectrum, selling off airwaves that were previously set aside over the air broadcast TV stations (the kind you pick up with a HD antenna). Now, these airwaves are going to be used for other purposes.
But don’t worry… if you get channels free with an antenna, they’re going to be safe. You may have to re-scan for your local stations and you might find them in a new spot, but nothing is leaving the air because of this.
Even though the auction closes this week, the public won’t find out the winners and what stations will be affected for a few weeks. Then, the FCC will publicly name the stations that are headed new channel numbers as well as announcing the auction winners and what they plan to do with their new airwaves. And once the stations find out they’re affected, they still have a long time (almost 40 months) to tell the public their new numbers.
It’s been revealed that the auction closed at nearly $20 billion (most of which will be deposited in the US treasury), so it’s clear these airwaves were pretty valuable in someone’s eyes. Telecom giants Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular were among the pre-approved bidders, and it’s expected one of them was the winner.
Gary Epstein, the chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force, said “The incentive auction has required unprecedented commitment from bidders as well as Commission staff, who from the moment that broadcasters made their initial commitments to the final bids processed this afternoon have worked each day to assist bidders and ensure a fair and successful auction. We are excited to share the results of the reverse and forward auctions and extensive information about the post-auction transition in the next few weeks.”