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CMU reviews options in FCC spectrum auction

Initial decision to participate or not due by March 29

Contact: Heather Smith

CMU trustees voted Dec. 17 to apply to the Federal Communications Commission for eligibility to possibly participate in an auction of broadcast television spectrum.

This information was communicated that afternoon in a news release and was open for questions from reporters immediately after the meeting during an interview session with President George E. Ross and board chair Bill Kanine.

The FCC will have a two-phase auction later this year that would recapture broadcast spectrum from TV station owners and put it up for bid to providers of wireless and mobile broadband telecommunications services.

According to the university's Vice President and General Counsel Manuel Rupe, at question for CMU is whether any of the university's five public broadcasting stations in Mount Pleasant, Flint, Manistee, Alpena and Cadillac will participate, and, if so, how. The first step — the application to be deemed eligible by the FCC to participate in the auction — is due today and is nonbinding, leaving open all options.

CMU — like all broadcast spectrum owners across the nation who are deemed eligible to participate — must make an initial decision about participation by March 29.

Those who wish to provide input on this matter may do so by emailing or sending letters to the Board of Trustees, 106 Warriner Hall, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, 48859.

This matter is important to Michigan residents. We are monitoring public reaction here and across the country. The nationwide auction, prompted by the FCC, involves four universities, one college and a Detroit foundation in Michigan, as well as the state's private broadcast station owners. It does not involve or affect public radio.

Rupe said that all related discussions and decisions will be confidential, in accordance with a federal anti-collusion rule. This does not follow our standard level of openness, but the rule is being used to protect the integrity of the auction and prevent unlawful manipulation of its pricing. The rule severely restricts what can be said and when.

This auction and the burgeoning need for broadband spectrum have made programming access for those without cable, Internet or satellite television a national issue. They reveal major questions that the FCC will have to consider as the nation moves forward.

 Although the FCC published a list of opening prices in October, it is important to note that national experts warn actual prices will be much lower.

A special website has been created for those seeking additional information. ​

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