You weren’t planning on taking summer vacation this year, were you? Good, because the dates for Auction 98 have now been set, and it looks like they’ll suck up most of the summer. So get out your calendar and mark these dates:

May 18, 2015 – 12:00 noon ET – Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175) filing window opens.

May 28, 2015 – prior to 6:00 p.m. ET – Short-Form Application (FCC Form 175) filing window deadline. The deadline for applications marks the beginning of the FCC’s very strict anti-collusion period. Bidders that intend to form consortia or otherwise partner with other bidders should have reached an agreement and disclosed it to the FCC by this deadline. Auction communications between or among bidders after this date could expose bidders to disqualification and hefty fines.

June 29, 2015 – 6:00 p.m. ET – Upfront Payments (via wire transfer). Based upon the markets that a bidder has selected in its May Short-Form Application, funds must be wired to the FCC as an upfront deposit to prove that the bidder is genuinely interested in participating in the auction.

July 23, 2015 – Auction Begins. 

At least a week before the July 23 start date, the FCC will let bidders know how many rounds of bidding will take place during the first few days. Depending upon the level of participation, it may take as little as a few days or as many as several weeks for the auction to end. The FCC’s anti-collusion rules will remain in effect throughout the auction (and for some time beyond the close of the bidding – keep an eye out for an announcement of when the coast is clear).  Those rules should be carefully followed.

The auction will look much the same as previous sales conducted by the FCC, at least in terms of the procedures. Unlike previous auctions, though, the FCC has not jiggered with the list of construction permits for sale – so all 131 permits listed in the Commission’s initial public notice about Auction 98 last month will be up for grabs. The only change: at the request of one commenter, the Commission has reduced the minimum opening bid for the Maysville, Georgia CP by more than 50% – from the asking price of $75,000 listed in the March public notice to a far more reasonable $35,000. (The commenter may still be disappointed, though; he had asked that the opening bid be knocked down to $30K.) Here’s the final list.

The permits available this time around lack some of the pizzazz of earlier auctions. Nothing in the seven figures … or six figures, for that matter. In fact, only three permits are sporting minimum opening bids of more than $50K: Columbia, Missouri (the priciest of the lot, at $75,000) and Cottonwood and Shasta Lake, California ($60,000 each). Bargain hunters may be interested in the cheapest listed permit – a paltry $500 for Memphis! Um, that’s Memphis, Texas, not Tennessee. (Sanderson, Texas and Guthrie, Texas are also listed at $500.) There are plenty of others at $10K or less, including Muleshoe, Texas, which comes in at a surprisingly high $10,000. Bear in mind, too, that the 131 available permits include 18 that have been listed in previous auctions. They either got passed over then or they were sold but not built – in other words, they may not present the best of all possible permits. But we encourage you to check all the permits out to see if any of them look like they’ve got your name on them (particularly if your name happens to be “Muleshoe”.)

Anyone who has any potential interest in participating in Auction 98 should review the notice in detail.  While there’s three months to go before the bidding starts, anyone interested in participating should take advantage of the time to perform due diligence about the channels they’ve got their eyes on. Remember what the Commission has said repeatedly in the past (and has said yet again in the Auction 98 Notice):

The FCC makes no representations or warranties about the use of this spectrum for particular services. Applicants should be aware that an FCC auction represents an opportunity to become an FCC permittee in a broadcast service, subject to certain conditions and regulations. … An FCC auction does not constitute an endorsement by the FCC of any particular service, technology, or product, nor does an FCC construction permit or license constitute a guarantee of business success.

(And yes, in keeping with tradition, the Commission itself made that ominous advisory even more ominous with the boldface emphasis.)

The Commission is also offering an online auction tutorial, which should be available as of May 18, 2015.  (Look for an “Auction Tutorial” link on the FCC’s Auction 98 webpage.) It’s for newbies or folks who want to re-gain their auction chops.  (The online tutorial replaces the bidder seminars which the Commission offered in the run-up to previous auctions.)

Additionally, the Commission will conduct a “mock auction” on July 20, 2015, again to permit folks to dust off any cobwebs and be ready to jump right in when the bidding starts for real on July 23.