First Confidential Status Letters advising of potentially fatal incompleteness flaws have been sent to would-be reverse auction applicants; Deadline for corrections: February 26, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. (ET)

If you’re a TV licensee who submitted an application to participate in the upcoming reverse auction component of the Incentive Auction, you should be checking your mail box regularly for the next couple of days. The Incentive Auction Task Force has announced that, on Friday, February 12, it sent out a First Confidential Status Letter (First CSL) to each applicant. When you receive your First CSL, be sure to review it carefully. If you don’t, you could be risking your ability to participate in the auction.

According to the Task Force’s public notice, the First CSL includes “information on the status of [the addressee’s] application as well as the status of each station that it selected”. These assessments are based on the staff’s initial review of all applications filed last month.

Ideally, your letter will confirm that your application is complete in all respects, including all information about each station that you have put into the auction. However, it may indicate that either the application, or the showing relative to one or more specific stations, is lacking. Lacking how? The Task Force’s announcement doesn’t say, but we heard a rumor that the First CSL will provide little or no detail about any incompleteness found by the FCC’s staff, so don’t be surprised if the First CSL is not as informative as you might prefer. Whatever may be the case, we’ll all find out soon enough.

If your First CSL says that your application is incomplete in some way, you will have until 6:00 p.m. (ET) on February 26, 2016 to fix whatever problem there might be. This will be the only opportunity to fix incomplete applications; late submissions will not be accepted.

The “resubmission window” during which defects may be addressed with “permissible minor amendments” opens at 10:00 a.m. (ET) on February 16. It’s very important that any defects be fixed by the February 26 closing date of the window because, after that date has come and gone, if an application (or any information about a particular station the applicant has entered into the auction) remains incomplete, that’ll be all she wrote. If the application as a whole is incomplete, the applicant won’t be permitted to proceed to the next step of the auction at all; if the information about a station previously selected by the applicant is incomplete, the applicant will not be permitted to move forward in the auction with that station.

In addition to addressing completeness problems, applicants may use the resubmission period to make other administrative and permissible minor changes to their applications. Those would include such things as adding or deleting authorized bidders (up to a maximum of three), changing the “responsible party” identified in the application, or revising addresses or telephone numbers for the applicant and/or its contact person(s). “Major” amendments will not be permitted. (Under the rules, “major” amendments include, but are not limited to: “changes in ownership of the applicant that would constitute an assignment or transfer of control, changes to any of the required certifications, and the addition or removal of licenses identified on the application to participate for which the applicant intends to submit reverse auction bids.”)

All amendments to the Form 177 application must be made online through the FCC’s auction portal. No hard copies will be accepted.

After the resubmission window closes, the Commission staff will review all the changes made during the window. Once that process has been finished, the staff will send out to each applicant a Second Confidential Status Letter (Second CSL) advising of the status of the application and each selected station.

If your application (including information about at least one selected station) is deemed “complete”, you’ll be eligible to participate in the reverse auction by submitting an “initial commitment” prior to 6:00 p.m. (ET) on March 29, 2016. (Reminder: The “initial commitment” means that you are committed to accepting the FCC’s opening price for the preferred relinquishment option specified for each selected station.) To submit that commitment, you’ll need specific instructions and a SecurID® token. Those will be provided with the Second CSL (assuming, of course, that the application is complete).