B. Classes of Service (7-14)

  1. Background.  In the Notice, the Commission proposed to authorize two classes of LPFM stations:  (1) an LP1000 class which would be for primary stations operating with an effective radiated power (ERP) of between 500 and 1000 watts and with an antenna height above average terrain (HAAT) up to 60 meters, and (2) an LP100 class which would be for stations operating on a secondary basis with between 50 and 100 watts ERP and with antennas up to 30 meters HAAT.  We also sought comment on a very low power secondary LP10 service with an ERP between one and 10 watts.  For each proposal, the Commission sought comment on the power levels associated with each class, the eligibility for such stations and the effects that each class may have on the full power radio service.
  2. CommentsLP1000.  Generally speaking, the proposal to authorize LP1000 stations generated the most controversy among the commenters.  The topic was one of the few areas that generated opposition by both current full service broadcasters and low power radio proponents, although for different reasons.  Commenters connected to the existing broadcast industry and the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE) expressed their concerns regarding the large potential for interference posed by such operations.[1]  Additionally, AFCCE, as well as commenters that generally support the LP1000 proposal, expressed concerns that the service could preclude other lower powered LPFM stations.  Most commenters supporting the LP1000 proposal proposed to limit LP1000 stations to rural areas or areas where sufficient spectrum could be found for both LP1000 and LP100 classes of service.[2]
  3. LP100.  The proposal for LP100 stations generated the most positive comments. Commenters generally felt that LP100 stations would provide a reasonable coverage area while remaining small enough to continue focusing on local needs.  From an engineering standpoint, various commenters, including AFCCE, stated that the LP100 proposal appears “reasonable” and the proposed power range would allow the use of equipment, such as exciters and simple single bay antennas, that are already available.[3]  Not all comments were favorable, however.  In general most negative comments shared the view stated by Disney that “[a] secondary LP100 service is undesirable for two reasons: first, because it would be difficult to establish a procedural and enforcement framework that would adequately protect FM broadcasters from interference; and second, because LP100 stations would create only marginal new radio listenership given the overriding levels of interference they would receive from full service stations.”[4]   
  4. LP10.  The Commission’s proposal for an LP10 service operating with 10 watts or less elicited both highly favorable support and vociferous opposition.  Most support for the proposal came from individuals and public interest groups.  The comments in favor of LP10 generally viewed such a service as suitable for school campuses and local community organizations that wish to serve small areas and do not have the resources to construct and operate a higher-powered facility.[5]  Furthermore, given what they saw as a smaller potential for interference, these groups considered LP10 as the best option for crowded urban areas where higher-powered facilities are not likely to fit.[6]  On the other hand, most comments opposing the LP10 proposal came from broadcasters and individuals concerned that the Commission would not be able to enforce its rules against the numerous LP10 stations and that widespread interference would result.  In fact, the NAB stated that, while the Commission feels that an LP10 station would not result in significant interference, the sheer number of LP10 stations may result in more interference than the higher-powered station proposals would create.  Additionally, the NAB cited the Commission’s 1978 determination that Class D 10 watt operations result in inefficient spectrum usage.[7]  However, one broadcaster, WEOK Broadcasting Corporation, noted that “[v]ery low power stations (perhaps one to 10 watts) could operate as useful adjuncts to college campuses,” provided there are some restrictions on usage. [8]   Likewise, not all public interest groups felt that an LP10 service would be a good idea.  For example, the Civil Rights Organizations stated that LP10 stations should not be authorized because they would be “hard-to-regulate.”[9]
  5. Decision.  We will not authorize 1000 watt stations.  We will, however, authorize LP100 and LP10 stations, in two separate stages.  First, we will license LP100 stations.  These stations generally will provide coverage appropriate to community needs and interests expressed in the record in this rule making.  The Mass Media Bureau is delegated authority to issue an initial and subsequent public notices inviting the filing of applications for LP100 stations on dates consistent with this Order and processing requirements.  After a period of time sufficient to process the initial LP100 applications, the Mass Media Bureau is authorized to open a filing window for applications for LP10 stations, which can also serve very localized community needs.  We adopt this sequential process in order to provide the larger (100 watt) stations with their greater service areas the first opportunity to become established.  Given that some LP10 stations can be sited where LP100 stations cannot, we expect that opportunities will remain for LP10 after the initial demand for LP100 stations has been accommodated.  Additionally, our own resources will be better spent first advancing service to relatively greater areas.
  6. However, the record, including comments from both current broadcasters and public interest groups who were opposed to stations as large as 1000 watts, convinces us that licensing such a service is not in the public interest.  As argued by commenters, 1000 watt stations may pose a greater interference concern for existing broadcasters and are not necessary to meet the most pressing and widespread demand for service expressed in the record.  Moreover, LP1000 stations could have a significant preclusive effect on the licensing of LP100 and LP10 stations.  Yet, these lower powered stations will permit many more opportunities for community-oriented service than would 1000-watt stations.

1.LP100 Service

  1. LP100 stations will be authorized to operate with maximum facilities equivalent to 100 watts ERP at 30 meters (100 feet) HAAT[10] and minimum facilities equivalent to 50 watts at 30 meters (100 feet).  This would permit a maximum 1 mV/m contour (60 dBu) with a radius of approximately 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles), subject to the radio environment.  Depending on population density, such a station could serve hundreds or thousands of listeners.  This service will allow LPFM licensees to broadcast affordably to communities of moderate size and interest groups that are geographically proximate, such as ethnic, professional, industry and student groups, and retirement neighborhoods.  Spectrum rights and responsibilities for this service are addressed below.

2.LP10 Service

  1. LP10 stations will operate at between one and 10 watts ERP and an antenna height of up to 30 meters (100 feet) HAAT.  Such stations will produce a 60 dBu signal out to about 1.6 to 3.2 kilometers (1 to 2 miles) from the antenna site.  Such stations will fit in some locations where LP100 stations cannot, due to separation requirements, and will provide groups with the opportunity to operate stations that reach smaller communities or groups with a common interest.  Spectrum rights and responsibilities for this service are addressed below.

[1]              See Comments of AFCCE at 11-13; see also Comments of NAB at 37-40; Comments of Disney (August 2, 1999) at 3-5, Engineering Statement at 6-7.

[2]              See, e.g., Comments of Vincent Chiao; Comments of Spencer Graddy Clark.

[3]              See Comments of AFCCE at 13.

[4]              See Comments of Disney at 2.

[5]              See, e.g., Comments of National Lawyer’s Guild; Comments of Amherst.

[6]              See, e.g., Comments of ACLU, et al.; Comments of REC Networks.

[7]              See Comments of NAB (August 2, 1999) at 81-85 (Vol. One).

[8]              See Comments of WEOK Broadcasting Corporation at 7.

[9]              See Reply Comments of the Civil Rights Organizations at 13 n. 24.

[10]             Antenna heights greater than 30 meters HAAT would be permitted, but an appropriate downward adjustment in ERP would have to be made such that the 1 mV/m F(50,50) signal contour radius would not exceed 5.6 kilometers.