The FCC has delayed the incentive auction and has prompted the agency to push the spectrum swap until 2016 thanks to a legal challenge.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) started the court case because the incentive auction could hurt TV stations that choose not to participate in the auction.
Final briefs in the case are not due until late January 2015, meaning a decision is probably not likely until mid-2015.
An FCC spokesman said it was confident it wouldl prevail in court, but given the reality of that schedule, the complexity of designing and implementing the auction, and the need for all auction participants to have certainty well in advance of the auction, a delay is necessary.
The spectrum auction will allow broadcasters to sell their unused spectrum to mobile carriers and get a cut of the purchase price. NAB has been cautiously supportive of the move, but the group’s lawsuit says that the FCC is not providing adequate protection for broadcasters who decline to participate.
NAB said it was not its narrowly focused lawsuit which was the cause for delay. NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said the NAB has said repeatedly, it is more important to get the auction done right than right now. Given its complexity, there is good reason Congress gave the FCC 10 years to complete the proceeding.