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FCC Opening Window for NCE Auction 83 Applicants to Modify Applications

The April 8 through April 17 window permits certain applicants to “deselect” NCE filing status

The Media Bureau announced an April filing window to permit amendment of Auction 83 noncommercial FM translator applications.

The April 8 through April 17 window allows certain auction applicants to deselect their “noncommercial educational” filing status.

Why? Because in 2003, the Wireless and Media Bureaus announced an FM translator application window for non-reserved band channels; the window was for new translator applications and major modifications of authorized translators. NCE applicants could file in the Auction 83 window.

However, several weeks later, the FCC changed the procedures, making an auction applicant’s attempt to change its self-identification from an NCE to commercial a major amendment, which was prohibited after the filing deadline. Moreover, “any application for an NCE station that remains mutually exclusive with any application for a commercial station, after any settlement opportunities expire, is returned as unacceptable for filing,” according to the commission today.

The commission later recognized it had created an unfair situation and directed the Media Bureau to announce a window to give long pending NCE FM applicants a one-time chance to amend their applications to apply for a commercial station. When the original window closed, Auction 83 applications couldn’t have known “that ‘checking’ the NCE box could be irreversibly fatal in any ‘mixed’ commercial/NCE mutually exclusive FM translator application group,” states the agency, which intends to waive the ban against post-window major amendments in this limited instance.

The FCC rejected arguments that commercial applicants would be harmed if mutually exclusive NCE applicants can deselect their noncommercial status, saying it’s best to give all applicants an opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether to participate in a future auction. The public interest is served by encouraging maximum bidder participation and promoting recovery of the value of auctioned spectrum, adds the agency.