Shutdown expected to begin at the FCC on Thursday; Auction 101 bidding will be held as scheduled

The partial government shutdown will hit the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, but the bidding in the FCC’s millimeter wave auction will resume as scheduled.

The auction’s four daily rounds are slated to pick up again starting tomorrow at 10 a.m., while the FCC itself is expecting to shut down midday Thursday, with employees allowed four hours for an orderly shutdown. The auction can continue because it is funded out of auction proceeds, rather than congressional appropriations. Auction 101 has raised nearly $690 million thus far.

According to the FCC, during the shutdown “work required for the protection of life and property will continue, as will any work related to spectrum auctions, which is funded by auction proceeds. In addition, the Office of the Inspector General will continue operations until further notice.”

In the meantime, according to the FCC’s shutdown plan, “suspended activities include, among many others: Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered; consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease; management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for competitive technologies and services for the American public must be suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new electronic devices to American consumers, cannot be provided.”

The shutdown plan noted that although more than 1,400 FCC employees will be furloughed until further notice, about 17% of its workforce will be retained, either to work without pay or because their salaries are paid out of sources other than lapsed appropriations. The auction will continue, and the FCC’s plan calls for up to 200 employees to continue working because their salary and expenses are not funded out of lapsed appropriations and they are supporting spectrum auction-related activities. The four FCC commissioners’ pay is also not financed through annual appropriations and they will be retained, the agency noted.

The FCC’s plan calls for up to 45 other employees to work without pay in order to provide a skeleton crew for protection of life and property, spectrum interference issues, emergency IT and USF disbursements, among other functions; the rest of the agency’s workforce will be furloughed and sent home. Some contractors will also be retained either on a full-time or as-needed basis, either to protect the agency’s property (including IT) or to support auction-related activities. The full FCC shutdown plan is available here.

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