FCC’s 2015 spectrum auction hits a snag as broadcasters sue over money

The FCC’s plan to sell off TV airways in order to free up more space for 4G wireless networks suffered a setback on Monday as the broadcast industry filed a lawsuit over the auction, claiming recent changes to the process will hurt their pocketbooks and ability to provide service.

The lawsuit filed by the National Association of Broadcasters further complicates an ambitious reverse auction process, set for 2015, in which mobile companies will pay broadcasters to turn over some of their valuable bandwidth and share spectrum with other stations.

The broadcasters, who were already wary of the process, are now claiming that the FCC has changed the process in such a way as to force companies that do not participate in the auction to incur extra expenses in moving their signals.

“Under this new methodology, many broadcast licensees, including NAB’s members, will lose coverage area and population served during the auction’s repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participated in the auction (and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights),” said the NAB in a release announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, these type of lawsuits from the broadcasters are not uncommon, and this one will not necessarily derail the proposed auction. Instead, it may be a way for the broadcasters, which have considerable political clout, to increase the $1.75 billion already set aside to cover expenses related to moving their signals. According to the Journal, the NAB argues the proposed process could result in the broadcasters incurring $500 million of out-of-pocket expenses.