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FCC Spectrum Auction

What is the FCC Spectrum Auction?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has begun the spectrum auction which is designed to encourage KPBS and every other television station in America to sell their over-the-air channels, or spectrum. As those channels are “cleared,” the FCC will then begin reselling that spectrum to the nation’s cellular companies in a second auction.

Learn More

Watch the video below to learn more about the spectrum incentive auction:


KPBS carefully considered the options regarding participating in the FCC spectrum auction. We worked closely with our governing bodies and engaged outside consultants who assisted us in understanding the options available in this complex matter. We conducted audience research into the attitudes of our KPBS viewers as they pertain to this process. Based on these significant efforts, KPBS decided to not participate in the Spectrum auction.

We remain committed to ensuring that the people of the San Diego area continue to have free access to the valuable educational, news, arts and entertainment content that KPBS provides.

What's Next

The auction is a two-step process. Starting March 29, 2016, the FCC will acquire spectrum from television stations in a so-called “reverse auction.” Participating stations will be offered progressively lower payments through a series of bidding rounds. Bidding will end when the FCC reaches targets for the amount of spectrum to be cleared in each market.

When the “reverse auction” phase concludes, a “forward auction” will begin in which the FCC will sell the cleared spectrum to wireless providers. Because an auction like this has never taken place before, no one is sure how long it will take. The FCC has estimated that the entire bidding process could take a few weeks to a few months.

Once the reverse and forward auction phases have concluded, but before spectrum is cleared for use by mobile providers, television stations’ signals will need to be rearranged, or “repacked,” to consolidate channel assignments within each market. As a result, most stations, not just those that participate in the auction, may have to move to new channels. KPBS will continue to inform our audience of any changes that may occur due to this process.