[99-25 NPRM] I. Introduction
1. By this Notice, we are proposing to establish rules authorizing the operation of new, low power FM (LPFM) radio stations. In particular, we are proposing to create two classes of low power radio service, both of which would operate in the existing FM radio band: a 1000-watt primary service and a 100-watt secondary service. We also seek comment on whether to establish a third, "microradio" class of low power radio service that would operate in the range of 1 to 10 watts on a secondary basis. These proposals are in response to two petitions for rule making and related comments indicating substantial interest in, and public support for, increased citizens' access to the airwaves. We believe that these new LPFM stations would provide a low-cost means of serving urban communities and neighborhoods, as well as populations living in smaller rural towns and communities. In creating these new classes of stations, our goals are to address unmet needs for community-oriented radio broadcasting, foster opportunities for new radio broadcast ownership, and promote additional diversity in radio voices and program services. We are proposing that LPFM stations not be subject to certain technical rules currently applied to other classes of radio service. In particular, we believe that current restrictions on third-adjacent channel operations are not needed for LPFM stations, and we believe it may be possible to disregard second-adjacent channel interference for these stations as well. We address below how we may be able to do this. At the same time, we are also proposing new technical rules and geographic spacing requirements to ensure that new LPFM stations do not cause interference to existing full service FM radio stations. In adopting any rules and requirements, we will also be wary of any provisions that would limit the development of future terrestrial digital radio services.1
2. In this Notice, we review formal petitions we have received and the principal arguments of commenters supporting and opposing new low power radio service, and we provide our initial assessment of those arguments. We describe three types of low power service of varying power levels which, in each case or together, could meet local needs. As a general matter, we seek comment on whether any new services established should be operated strictly on a noncommercial basis. The Notice also addresses related matters such as service rules, ownership issues, and application processing procedures for LPFM services. We also welcome commenters to bring to our attention any alternatives or additions to our proposals that would serve our goals of encouraging community participation and the proliferation of local voices, while protecting the integrity of the spectrum.
1 We have begun to receive requests for "experimental" authorizations for low power FM service that essentially would be identical to services now under consideration in this proceeding. We are concerned that many more individuals and entities may react to this Notice by attempting to "jump the gun" by also filing premature applications under the guise of requests for experimental stations. We do not consider it appropriate to prejudge the outcome of this rule making or to begin a premature race for authorizations by considering such requests at this time, and interested parties are advised to await the outcome of this proceeding to file applications pursuant to whatever rules we may establish if we authorize such service. We do not intend to process such applications unless they serve a legitimate and useful specified experimental purpose under controlled conditions for a limited time period appropriate to record experimental results. We also note that experimental broadcasts are not for regular program services and must be conducted on a strictly noncommercial basis. 47 C.F.R. ' 74.182.