REC's RM-11810 LPFM Petition: Frequently Asked Questions

EAS: The FCC is asking all broadcast stations to file ETRS Form One by August 27. REC is pushing for 100% LPFM participation. If you need help, please let us know. Filing services available for all three ETRS Forms. Retain REC now! 1-844-REC-LPFM. Participation is mandatory whether you do it yourself or we do it..

What has REC proposed?

REC has proposed that the FCC add a second “regime” of protection in order to give existing LPFM stations more options on modification applications, especially in light of increased interference on their own channel.  It also would allow many LPFM stations to strengthen their facilities with a potential of 250 watts at 30 meters HAAT (7.1 km service contour).  It will also also prepare for another LPFM filing window and offer more solutions for some potential LPFM stations, especially in areas where LPFM is currently not available due to distance separation.  It also makes enhancements to the rules that will benefit existing LPFM stations when it comes time to make modifications or when the organization needs to assign their license.  It also makes it easier to enhance coverage through FM translators and FM boosters.

How do LPFM stations currently protect other facilities?

All protections from LPFM stations to other facilities (full-service FM, FM translator, FM booster, FM Class D, foreign FM facilities and TV channel 6 stations) are done through distance separation. 

How will the new regime work?

The new regime will use the contour method, similar to how FM translators protect other stations.  Contours would apply in protecting facilities that do not meet the current §73.807 minimum spacing rules.  Due to a statutory requirement in the Local Community Radio Act, in addition to contours, we will also require LPFM stations to protect full-service FM facilities with a minimum distance separation.  The distances are shorter than the current ones as they are the LP-10 distances that were codified at the time the LCRA was enacted.  This type of “hybrid” protection for full-service FM stations is similar to that used in the full-power commercial world under §73.215 of the rules.  We refer to this regime as the “§73.815 Regime” (in the current regime of protection is referred to as “§73.807”).

How do translators protect other broadcast facilities?

FM translators use the contour model.  The translator will have an interfering contour.  This is based on the field strength received by 50 percent of the receivers, 10 percent of the time (otherwise known as the F[50, 10] curves).  There are separate interfering contours for co-channel, first-adjacent channel and second/third-adjacent channel relationships.  Each broadcast facility also has a protected service contour which is based on a particular field strength (60 dBu for most stations) and the area where that field strength is predicted to be received by 50 percent of the receivers, 50 percent of the time (otherwise known as the F[50, 50] curves).  The actual curves are based on a combination of the station’s power and a measurement of height above average terrain in up to 360 different directions.

When would the new (§73.815) regime be triggered?

The §73.815 regime would be triggered in the following situations: (1) if the proposed LPFM facility does not meet the §73.807 minimum distance separations and/or the §73.825 minimum distance separations for Channel 6 TV stations, (2) the LPFM station wishes to run with power higher than the current “LP-100” service (greater than 100 watts ERP at 30 meters HAAT).

§73.815 sounds too good to be true. Is there a catch?

Honestly, there is.  Under the current §73.807 regime, since LPFM stations are separated to all facilities by distances, there are no rules similar to translators where if a newly proposed LPFM facility is predicted to cause to an existing broadcast service within the service contour of the proposed LPFM facility or if the newly-constricted LPFM facility causes actual interference to an existing broadcast service, then a claim of interference can be made.  A part of the reason why this has worked is because of the substantial “buffer zone” that overprotects full-service stations.

Since §73.815 protection is more similar to translators, it would only be fair to apply the translator rules to LPFM stations choosing to use §73.815 for siting their station.  We do note that at this time, the FCC is considering rule changes to the translator interference rules.  REC would expect that the same revised rules that would apply for FM translators would also apply to LPFM stations using §73.815.

What if I don’t want to use §73.815 and use §73.807 instead?

Under the proposed rules, if a proposed LPFM facility can meet all of today’s rules regarding minimum spacing in §73.807 and §73.825 and does not propose a service contour exceeding 5.6 km, then all of the status quo rules apply including the “safety blanket” where the FM translator-style interference rules would not apply, just like they do not apply today.

What if the LPFM station is already §73.807 short-spaced, am I going to be forced into §73.815?

Under our proposed rules, no.  If the LPFM station is currently §73.807 short-spaced due to subsequent application activity by another facility (such as being short-spaced by a translator), that LPFM station is still treated as §73.807.  If the LPFM station wishes to make a modification which does not lessen the short-spacing and still meets all other §73.807 minimums, then the modification can be made under §73.807.  §73.815 would only come into play if the LPFM wishes to lessen the short-spacing or create a new short-spacing and use contours to demonstrate protection.

Are the rules on second-adjacent channel waivers changing?

No.  Under the LCRA, LPFM stations that do not meet minimum distance separations to second-adjacent channel stations must seek a waiver of that spacing where it can be demonstrated that the proposed facility will not cause interference to any radio service operating on the second-adjacent channel.  Under our proposed rules, the §73.815 regime does not apply to second-adjacent channel short-spaced facilities.  The current rules do allow for a form of contour overlap protection on second-adjacent channels for LPFMs stations that are right outside the protected contour of the short-spaced second adjacent channel.

If a full-service station is §73.807 short-spaced and the LPFM makes a modification under the §73.815 regime, does that restrict the full-service station from making certain changes (similar to the commercial §73.215 rules)?

Absolutely not.  LPFM remains a secondary service and full-service stations would be able to make whatever modifications that are appropriate for their facilities.  Even if those modifications further increase overlap to a LPFM facility.

Under the proposed rules, can a full-service FM station, FM translator or other LPFM station file an interference complaint against a proposed LPFM facility using rules similar to §74.1204(f) or §74.1203(a)?

Only if the LPFM is proposing a §73.807 short-space (co or first-adjacent channel) to that facility and §73.815 protection is requested or if the LPFM is proposing a service contour greater than 100 watts ERP at 30m HAAT.  If §73.807 minimum spacing is met and the LPFM station remains under 100w at 30m HAAT, the interference is not actionable in accordance to the existing rules and policies.

How can a full-service station displace an LPFM on a subsequent application?

Under the current rules, a subsequent application can only trigger an actionable complaint against an LPFM station if the full-service station’s city-grade (70 dBu) contour overlaps the appropriate interfering contour of the LPFM facility. This displacement is not automatic.  It’s only if the full-service station complains.   For reserved band (88.1~91.9) FM stations, the LPFM interfering contour can not overlap into the community of license for the full-service station.

If an LPFM station is using §73.815 protection and there is a subsequent full-service application, a complaint by the full-service station may be actionable under rules similar to those that currently apply to FM translators.

Would LPFM stations opting for increased power be required to protect intermediate frequencies (+/- 10.6 and 10.8 MHz)?

If an LPFM station wishes to operate a facility with an ERP between 101 and 250 watts, then the LPFM station would also be required to meet the intermediate frequency (I.F.) minimum spacing.  This is consistent with the rules for FM translators.  If an LPFM station is already operating at a reduced ERP due to height above average terrain and they wish to upgrade their service contour under the proposed rules, the IF limitation would only come into play if the proposed higher power exceeds 100 watts ERP. 

Example 1: Let’s say the LPFM station is currently at 48 meters HAAT and is currently authorized 39 watts ERP.  The LPFM station is able to upgrade to a 7.1 km service contour with an ERP of 100 watts (which creates a service contour of 7.089 km).  This LPFM station would not be subject to the IF protections since the ERP is 100 watts or less.

Example 2: The LPFM is one meter lower (47 meters HAAT) and is currently authorized 41 watts ERP.  The LPFM station is able to upgrade to a 7.1 km service contour with an ERP of 105 watts.  If the LPFM station specifies operation at 105 watts, they will also need to protect the I.F. channels.  The LPFM station can opt to only operate at 100 watts ERP and avoid the requirement to protect the I.F. channels.

What is the availability for [name of city] under the §73.815 regime?  Will there be a search tool?

Availability of a particular channel would depend on minimum distance separations first and then contours are brought in to the mix to determine protections.  Once that is determined, then second-adjacent channel is brought into the mix and availability is specific based on the distance to the second-adjacent channel station, the field strength of the second-adjacent channel station at the LPFM site, the LPFM station’s antenna height and design. 

REC currently has maps at LP250.com for the top media markets that show the minimum distance separations and the contours.  Both of which must be met.  Second-adjacent channels are not shown on the maps.

REC may develop a search tool in the future that will show the minimum distance separations, the relationship of existing contours with the location proposed as well as second adjacent channel short-spacing.

Will this petition cause the displacement of any of the FM translators that were established in the Auction 99 and 100 filing windows as well as impact those moved up to 250 miles in 2016?

No.  REC is not proposing to cancel or otherwise displace any of the translators that were applied for during those filing windows. 

Was/were the author(s) of RM-11810 involved in the nearly 1,000 informal objections that were filed against FM translator modification applications by so-called “LPFM advocates”?

Not at all.  If anything, the author of this petition, Michelle Bradley made public statements within 24 hours of the filings expressing opposition to the tactics that Prometheus et al used.  While REC agrees that Section 5 of the LCRA may not have been properly considered in the AM Revitalization rulemaking proceeding, REC accepted the outcome of that proceeding as the number of new Section 5 eligible applications would be limited by both the fact that the window was for AM licensees only and further restricted to AM stations that did not participate in the 2016 major move window (where most facilities were not subject to Section 5).  Community need as further enhanced by giving Class C and D stations a “head start”.

Please understand that Section 5 does state that new licenses should be made available for both services but it does not mandate a 50/50 split.  We must acknowledge that the FM translator service pre-dates LPFM by 30 years.  This petition uses untapped potential in the current wording of the LCRA and more “mature” methods of broadcast allocation to make more new licenses available for LPFM.  This way, the translators already applied for are not impacted or impeded.

Was this petition a direct result of the recent activity by Prometheus et al against the translator activities?

Not really.  Most of the material in the Petition was originally brought up in the summer of 2017 during the Media Modernization Initiative (MB Docket 17-105).  Some of it was also part of our previous petition RM-11749.  The actual concepts being proposed have been around for quite a while.  The timing of the filing was very ripe with the dismissal of the objections but it was a filing that was going to be done anyway, regardless of the activities of others.

Does this mean that directional antennas are coming to LPFM?

LPFM has been allowed to operate directional antennas in respect to public safety applications and second-adjacent channel waivers.  Despite that, all LPFM stations are protected non-directionally. REC is proposing that LPFM become a “true” directional service where stations using directional antennas are protected to their actual directional service contour.  We would also extend the use of directional antennas to meet international agreements and to prevent contour overlaps in applications using the §73.815 regime.  We are also codifying the ability to use “composite” and “skew” patterns (as some LPFM stations on second adjacent waivers are already using these). 

How are you proposing to change the rule on minor moves?

Currently, minor moves are limited to 5.6 kilometers.  At one time, they were limited to only 2 km.  Many LPFM stations cannot find a suitable location within 5.6 km of their current site.  In the past, the FCC has given waivers to LPFM stations to move a reasonable distance upon a compelling showing that no viable sites exist within 5.6 km.  In all of the cases that were granted, there was some form of overlap in the protected service contours of the current and proposed LPFM facilities.  REC proposes to change the distance allowed on a minor move to that where the contours overlap.  This would be consistent with the FM translator rules.  With this change, the FCC would no longer accept waivers.

Why is REC proposing to remove the 3-year holding period on assignments?

The 3-year holding period was codified into the rules in 2007 when the FCC allowed LPFM stations to be assigned or transferred.  The 3-year holding period was to prevent speculation in the LPFM service at a time when the outcome of the 2003 Auction 83 “Great Translator Invasion” was fresh in everyone’s minds.

Instead of preventing speculation (which did happen with the Cesar Guel applications), the holding period has caused several situations where an organization built their station, licensed it and now the parent organization no longer wants to support it.  As a result, these licenses were surrendered back to the FCC.  Those licenses could have been given to an equally qualified organization to continue providing community radio.

Another part of the petition deals with “failing construction permits”.  Those construction permits that were applied for and the parent organization is not able to build.  If after 18 months, the original organization could not build the facility, the construction permit could be assigned to another equally qualified organization who must complete the construction within the time remaining on the 36 month construction permit (we are not proposing to allow the “saving” organization to extend the permit for more than 36 months).

For more information on the REC LPFM proposal RM-11810, visit LP250.com

For media and professional inquires into this petition, please contact Michelle Bradley at 202 621-2355.