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FCC Tells Broadcasters How Much They Might Clear by Selling Their Airwaves

Estimates may be high, but the FCC offers some guidance to station owners considering selling out in the upcoming auction.


The biggest question surrounding a highly anticipated auction of TV airwaves next year is how many station owners in large TV markets like New York and Los Angeles will be willing to sell.

The answer to that won’t be known until the auction starts next year, but Federal Communications Commission officials kicked off a lobbying effort Wednesday to woo station owners who are thinking about selling out.

The airwaves are highly coveted by the wireless industry because signals can travel for long distances on them. AT&T and Verizon now use nearby airwaves for their 4G LTE networks.

The agency began emailing an information package to all broadcasters eligible to sell their airwaves back to the government Wednesday explaining how the auction works and how much they might be able to get for their airwaves. (The information package is also available here.)

Estimates range from an average of $410 million per station in New York City to just $1 million for stations in small markets like Bend, Ore., according to FCC projections. Those estimates may be on the high side, too, since the agency is assuming it will have 100 megahertz of airwaves to sell to wireless carriers. Earlier agency estimates put the amount at closer to 70 megahertz.

The FCC is planning to hold a complicated two-sided auction next year where it will pay TV stations to sell their airwaves back to the government while simultaneously selling off those airwaves to wireless carriers.

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