Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice (“PN”), following up on its July Public Notice, concerning the software to be used during the Incentive Auction to determine whether the acceptance of each bid from a broadcaster will result in a feasible, and optimal, repacking process.
The Commission’s selection of winning reverse auction bids will depend on its ability to determine whether channels could be assigned in a repacking to all broadcasters remaining on the air in a manner consistent with all legal and technical constraints. The PN describes a “feasibility checker” that will make that determination, which is a computer program that checks for the existence of feasible channel assignments for a set of television stations, consistent with applicable constraints. The inputs required for such a “checker” would include: (1) a list of channels available for assignment; (2) a set of stations to be assigned to particular channels; (3) a set of allowable channels for each station; and (4) a list of stations that cannot be assigned to the same channel or to adjacent channels.
The feasibility analysis needs to be fast in order to work without hampering the incentive auction process. But, the FCC suggests that an optimization analysis, which considers additional factors, such as minimizing the number of channel changes and minimizing the costs of repacking, could be time-consuming. The FCC suggests that it may be able to use optimization software during the auction, in order to decide which bids to accept, or simply defer the channel optimization analysis until after the bidding is completed.
The FCC did not release any computer code with the Public Notice, although a technical appendix describes possible feasibility approaches in more detail and the PN states that the FCC is investigating various software solutions. The PN also announces a Workshop/Webinar in February to discuss approaches for feasibility checking. We will keep you posted with the date and time of that workshop when announced.