Step 3: profit!
The plan has three phases. In the first phase, the FCC will conduct a reverse auction in which it asks broadcasters to tell the FCC how much it would take for the agency to buy them out. Presumably, the least popular (and, therefore, least profitable) channels will submit the lowest bids. By accepting these low bids, the FCC can free up the maximum possible spectrum at the minimum cost.
Second, the FCC will re-arrange the remaining broadcasters so they're clustered together in the electromagnetic spectrum. That will free up contiguous blocks of spectrum that can be put to alternative uses.
The Federal Communications Commission has begun the long process of reclaiming broadcast TV spectrum.
On Friday the five FCC commissioners unanimously supported a proposal that will free up spectrum held by TV broadcasters and auction it to wireless broadband providers. The complicated process, which is the first of its kind, has three components.
First there is the reverse auction, where TV broadcasters will voluntarily sell their spectrum back to the government. Then there is a "repacking" or re-allocation of broadcasters, who didn't participate in the auction to make sure the spectrum is being used efficiently and there are big enough blocks to sell to wireless operators. And finally, the plan calls for a forward auction, in which the wireless broadband providers would bid on available.
The commission has set a goal of having all of this completed by 2014.