Incentive auction

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The incentive auction is an event in which broadcasters have the option to sell off their current frequencies to the FCC for use by cellular companies and two-way radio communications and either shut down operations or relocate to a shared frequency of another station in that market or move to a subcarrier. The auction is done in reverse form. The opening bids, with many stations worth hundreds of millions, begin to reduce as the auction proceeds. The auction started on March 29, 2016. Stations who wish to enter the auction had from December 1, 2015 to December 18, 2015 to register.

On April 29, 2016, the FCC announced at the start date during the auction for stations to surrender their spectrum by either shutting down or moving to a lower channel that the digital spectrum will end at channel 36. It currently ends at channel 51. Any stations transmitting at 38 or higher will be relocated at 36 or below. 37 will remain used for radio astrology and medical telemetry.

The transition of stations' transmissions will be affected in staggered phases, ten phases in all. The start date is when testing begins, the end date when the phase is completed:
Phase 1 - September 14, 2018 - November 30, 2018
Phase 2 - December 1, 2018 - April 12, 2019
Phase 3 - April 13, 2019 - June 21, 2019
Phase 4 - June 22, 2019 - August 2, 2019
Phase 5 - August 3, 2019 - September 6, 2019
Phase 6 - September 7, 2019 - October 18, 2019
Phase 7 - October 19, 2019 - January 17, 2020
Phase 8 - January 18, 2020 - March 13, 2020
Phase 9 - March 14, 2020 - May 1, 2020
Phase 10 - May 2, 2020 - July 3, 2020

The following stations will shut down operations altogether with no CSA (channel sharing agreement) participation:

Market Station Channel Network Notes
Augusta GA WAGT 26 NBC NBC to move to WAGT-CD/ch. 16
Burlington VT WVTA 41 PBS PBS seen on three other stations in state
Columbus OH WPBO 42 PBS PBS seen on WOSU/ch. 34
Greenville N C WFXI 8 Fox Fox seen on WYDO/ch. 14
Greenville S C WRET 49 PBS PBS seen on three other stations in market
Louisville KY WBKI 34 The CW CW to move to subchannel of WYMO/ch. 58
Milwaukee WI WMVT 36 PBS PBS seen on WMVS/ch. 10
New York City N Y WNYJ 66 Independent
Philadelphia PA WYBE 35 Educational
San Juan P R WMEI 14 Retro TV
WSJU 31 SuperLatina
Springfield MO KSPR 33 ABC ABC to be seen on subchannel of KYTV/ch. 3
Tampa FL WUSF 16 PBS PBS seen on WEDU/ch. 3
Washington D C WNVC 24 Educational
WNVT 30 Educational