REC Low Power AM (LPAM) Comments Fact Sheet

REC LPAM Home Note: We consider LPAM a dormant project at this time. This material is being offered more for historical purposes.


REC has filed comments in the LPAM proceeding RM-11287 which included arguments on why the LPAM service can not be commercial as proposed and then offers a more structured licensed LPAM service.

Main Bullet Points

REC's plan for LPAM service calls for:

  • Non-commercial educational (NCE) service only.
  • Expanded band (1620-1700 kHz) service. (regular band in Guam and American Samoa)
  • 100 watt stations in rural areas.
  • 30 watt stations nationwide.
  • Distance spacing methodology to full power AM, Travelers Information Stations and other LPAM stations.
  • Fixed time sharing schedules if MX applications can not reach a settlement.
  • Aggregate ownership limits with LPFM stations.
  • Other legal policies and procedures to mirror the existing LPFM rules.
  • Expansion of Part 15 rules to allow unlicensed stations on 1710 kHz.
  • Reduced protections to "part time" TIS stations in the expanded band.

Proposed Distance Spacing

All values in kilometers. Protections to other LPAM stations still under discussion.

100-watt stations

Other Station Co-Channel First Adjacent Second Adjacent
Full Power AM 319 197 60
TIS 24 24 --
100W LPAM (E1) 90 45 --
30W LPAM (E2) 40 20 --

30-watt stations

Other Station Co-Channel First Adjacent Second Adjacent
Full Power AM 254 133 60
TIS 16 16 --
100W LPAM (E1) 40 20 --
30W LPAM (E2) 25 16 --


Why shouldn't LPAM run commercials?

In this case, it is not the issue of whether an LPAM can not run commercials, it is whether it can run commercials without auctions. The proposal is asking for "freedom from mandatory auctions" for settling mutually exclusive applications. The current wording of the Communications Act (the will of Congress) specifically settles all situations where applications are mutually exclusive and are commercial in nature to be settled by competitive bidding (auctions).

Since LPAM is a "new" service, shouldn't it be excluded from auctions?

The Communications Act does not specify which services are subject to auctions nor does it give any exemptions from "new services" or technologies. The only exemptions the Act gives is for digital TV construction permits from incumbent TV broadcasters to foster the transition to digital television. It also gives exemptions to public safety agencies and non-commercial educational broadcast stations.

Would REC consider any kind of a commercial low power service?

We understand that one of the issues that the Petitioners is trying to address by a commercial LPAM service is that broadcast stations are moving out of rural areas and moving to urban areas and therefore making local radio advertising out of reach. We do note that there was a recent AM broadcast window where stations as low as 250 watts could be applied for. Therefore in the rural areas, this service already exists. Our main concerns are that there are many urban areas that can not get LPFM, even if Congress repeals the RBPA (these are the areas in red on our availabilty map in the comments) and in the areas outside the Top-3 urban areas, LPAM affords the only opportunity short of extending the FM band after the DTV conversion for these non-profit organizations to have a voice on the air. We must protect their opportunity to have that voice. We are also concerned because there are many minority owned (compared to Clear Channel and Viacom) AM stations that are struggling. A commercial LPAM service would be the nail in the coffin for these stations. Therefore there are arguments against commercial LPAM in urban and rural areas. We are more inclined to support a commercial LPAM service in rural areas if a showing can be made that there are still significant LPFM opportunities. But at this time, we must oppose all commercial LPAM. Maybe after a filing window or two, we can address the issue again in the rural areas based on the non-commercial demand for stations. Unfortunately, we must come to the realization that without an amendment to the Communications Act, a commercial LPAM service is not exempt from auctions.

What about program content on commercial LPAM stations?

The Petitioners can argue that a commercial LPAM service would bring diverse programming to an area to highlight new performers and allow local businesses to make themselves known. So can noncommercial stations. In fact, noncommercial LPFM is doing that today. To see what the potential future of a commercial LPAM service can be, just turn on a TV with a good antenna in an urban area. LPTV, a service intended to bring independent voices to rural and urban areas has turned into a pit of home shopping and infomercial channels in the urban and some rural areas. Even though there are LPTV stations that do program to their communities (many of them have beeen reclassified to Class-A), many do not. We do not want to see situations where future organizations wanting a non-commercial voice on the airwaves having their opportunities being foreclosed on because of these potential "barter-boxes".


Should an "individual" be able to own an LPAM station?

If LPAM becomes a commercial service, this is not an issue. There are many commercial broadcast stations licensed to individuals. Now for a non-commercial service, we are again limited by the Communications Act, which defines non-commercial educational. It is in the public interest that anyone seeking a non-commercial educational facility officially organize themselves as an educational organization with the Secretary of State of their state. There are several cases in LPFM where "single person boards" exist and individuals have been able to obtain LPFM statons. It just takes a more jumping through hoops. We feel that organizations that have their "ducks in a row" are more committed to providing a service and are less likely to "lose interest" as the newness dies off.

What is the REC position on the priority to stations broadcasting "worthwhile programming not found elsewhere on the dial"?

Many organizations in the LPFM/LPAM movement want free speech and defend the First Amendment at every possible opportunity. This aspect of the petition is a complete slap in the face to everything that the grassroots organizations have been fighting for. They are asking that the FCC define what is "worthwhile" in the aspect of programming and just overall recognize a certain format over another. As we warned in our comments, this will create a flurry among the evangelical Christian community (which the petitioners singled out in their comments) to start a fresh campaign that would make the decades-old RM-2493 Madilyn Murray O'Hair rumor look like small potatoes. Bottom line, RM-11287 could be the next RM-2493 if this provision continues to propagate. In the C-SPAN Radio case, the FCC defended that they do not regulate programming format and that they can not deny a transfer of a license even though a particular music format (in this case, Jazz) is being taken away from a community. We are more conncerned than ever about this issue because the FCC recently made a decision that favored de-reserving a TV Channel in favor of bringing an additional Spanish TV station into the Phoenix area. (Table of Allotments, Phoenix AZ channel *39 and Holbrook AZ channel 11) We do not support the FCC controlling format or language of broadcast stations similar to what takes place in Canada and other nations with weaker free speech provisions in their constitutions.

Technical Issues

Is the REC proposal very overprotective to incumbent AM stations?

We admit that it is overprotective. It is not as overprotective as the original Baumgartner proposal. Both the RM-11287 and the Baumgartner petitions called for a considerably large "safety zone" between LPAM and full power AM stations. REC's modified distance spacing proposal takes into consideration both the need for a distance-spacing methodology expressed by Baumgartner and a slightly reduced safety zone as expressed by the RM-11287 petitioners.

Why does REC only support expanded band (1620-1700 kHz) LPAM?

The primary reason is that unlike the normal AM band that has been in development since the days of the spark gap, the expanded AM band pretty much has stations of only one technical configuration. This maximum technical configuration is required by international agreement. This means that we should not expect any 50 kW blowtorches in the band any time soon. With this cookie-cutter configuration of stations in the expanded band, it is much simpler (even simpler than FM) to space LPAM stations well outside the service areas of these full power stations.

Why not 1610 kHz?

We did not support the assignment of LPAM stations on 1610 kHz because we did not want to deal with first adjacent channel issues with stations on 1600 kHz (as well as second adjacent issues on 1590 kHz) where stations do not follow the same cookie cutter approach as in the expanded band. There are a lot of Traveler's Information Stations (TIS) on this channel from prior to the AM band being expanded. These TISs will prevent LPAM on this channel in many areas anyway. We also recognize that 1610 kHz is a popular frequency for unlicensed AM stations operating under Part 15 of the rules. We did not want to cause any additional displacement of these operations. In our proposal, we have also asked for Part 15 rules to allow these stations as high as 1710 kHz in the event that a LPAM station on 1620 kHz is licensed.  We also note that the TIS allocation on 1610 is technically considered as primary.  No FCC licensed broadcast stations operate on 1610.  

Should LPAM be allowed to operate at night?

Nighttime service will definitely be a stickling point, especially with incumbent broadcasters. Many will claim that if LPAM stations are allowed to operate with their daytime powers (30 or 100 watts) full time, they will be allowed superior nighttime facilities to incumbent full powers. REC did not make any specific engineering comments on nighttime AM service as we can not claim to be experts on this from an engineering prospective. We did share a concern that LPAM stations, especially 100 watt stations can propagate and could create nighttime service reception issues for some full power stations. This should open the door for the FCC to investigate this issue to determine if LPAM stations, if permitted, would be able to operate at night or if certain LPAM stations (e.g. the 100 watt stations) would be required to reduce power at night.

Wouldn't AM IBOC destroy opportunities for LPAM?

With the very overprotective distance spacing restrictions we have proposed for co-channel, first and second adjacent channel, we feel that the sufferage of LPAM stations from nearby AM IBOC splatter will be minimal in markets where a full power expanded band IBOC station operates. REC continues to oppose the Ibiqity IBOC service operating on AM, especially at night. REC supports more spectrally efficient systems such as Digital Radio Mondiale and the Kahn CAM-D system for digital AM service.

MX and Timesharing

Why does REC support a "mandatory timesharing" plan?

We feel that as many voices should have a chance at the microphone as possible. While the FCC intended to do such a plan in the LPFM service, the concept of "successive non-renewable license terms" has been the biggest disaster in the LPFM service. We feel that there is a better way. We do not agree that an LPAM (or LPFM) station has to construct their station within 3 years just to have it sit in mothballs for another 7 years before they can get on the air for one year and then have to fight to get another license, in which case the station could go back into mothballs for another 7 years. REC supports a plan that will take the top three applicants in an MX group based on their community presence (evidenced by registration with the state Secretary of State or Corporation Commission) and allows them to shift "bid" one of three specific time slots with the applicant with the longest community presence having the first opportunity to bid. Our plan includes both daytime and nighttime "shifts" for the LPAM service since we recognize that many LPAM stations may not be able to produce an effective nighttime service. Of course, we feel that a universal settlement is the best way to handle MX situations and we hope that mandatory timesharing will strike a balance between the FCC's insane plan for LPFM and the applicant's desire to get on the air right away without having to wait for years.

What about considerations for "newcomers"?

For a non-commercial LPAM service, REC opposes the "bonus point" for organizations with less than 2 years of community presence (we agree with the Petitioners on this). This means that a newcomer organization, especially organizations created solely for LPAM broadcasting will have an equal chance of LPAM stations as an established organization. This means that if there are MX applications between an established organization and a newcomer organization, the newcomer organization is not automatically dismissed like in th current LPFM rules. In our proposal, the only time that "community presence" comes in play and newcomers may be disadvantaged is in the event there are more than 3 MX applications pending as well in the "shift bidding" process for mandatory time sharing (where the newcomer organizations will get the last choice in time slots).

International/Outside "Lower-48" Issues

What about protections for Mexico and Canada?

The original petition specifically does not address international protections. Since all nations using the expanded band in region 2 are subject to the same international convention, we will not see stations exceeding 10kW day/1kW night on these channels, even from foreign sources. The current agreement with Canada uses channel allotments but only gives a field strength method for determining spacing. The Mexico agreement specifically uses distance separation. The Mexico agreement specifically addresses TIS stations on 1610 kHz but does not discuss other TIS operations. LPAM, like TIS is a secondary service and may be displaced as a result of international activity. Since international facilites for expanded band AM are similar to their US counterparts, we have found no reason to have different proposed protections. For the purposes of distance spacing, there's no difference between a foreign and a domestic station in the expanded band.

What is the special provision for Guam and American Samoa?

Since Guam and American Samoa are in Region 3, the expanded AM band is not available. Instead, we propose in these areas only to allow LPAM stations in the normal band, preferably at the top of the band. We also note that this area uses 9 kHz spacing instead of 10 kHz spacing for AM stations.

Part 15 Stations

Will LPAM foreclose on opportunities for Part 15 AM stations and applications?

We don't believe it will. Some in the Part 15 community are concerned that LPAM will create a whole ton of new AM stations that will take away all of the channels in the expanded band. While the creation of LPAM will reduce the number of channel choices for Part 15 stations, it will not completely take away all opportunities. Due to the significant overprotections that are being proposed by the Joint Petitioners, Baumgartner and supported by REC, there will be opportunities in the "safety zones" (the area that between the service area for the full power AM station and the LPAM station). We are also keeping LPAM stations off of 1610 kHz, which we recognize is a popular channel for Part 15 stations. We are also proposing that the Part 15 rules be expanded to cover frequencies between 1705 and 1715 kHz thereby opening 1710 kHz for Part 15 unlicensed use. We do not propose any LPAM stations on 1710 kHz.

Some in the Part 15 movement propose that LPAM be required to protect existing Part 15 stations. What is REC's position on this issue?

REC can not support such a provision. First, there is no recognized registry of Part 15 AM operations with includes technical information such as antenna coordinates, therefore, no one can verify the existance of an Part 15 station. Second, there is no true definition of what a Part 15 station is that would be subject to protection. Does the station have to be operated in a particular manner? This can be read to suggest that Part 15 AM devices such as real estate signs, drive-in theater audio and toys like the classic "Mr. Microphone" are devices that must be protected by LPAM stations. Third, LPAM is a licensed service where the Part 15 AM stations are authorized by rule. Since Part 15 AM is an unlicensed service, it is not entitled to any protections from any licensed service. We do note that if an LPAM service is ever authorized and distance spacing is used, REC will offer the ability for Part 15 stations to "register" their station's coordinate information in our database. This will mean that if someone runs a channel search in your area, we can display a warning to advise that there is an existing Part 15 operation on a particular frequency and to avoid using that channel for LPAM if possible. We can not guarantee protection but at least you can tell the world that you are out there.

Traveler's Information Stations

Is REC proposing to make LPAM primary to TIS?

In most cases, no. REC is proposing it only in one situation, If a TIS station operating in the expanded band (1620-1700 kHz) is not operating a full time (24x7) station and only turning on the transmitter in the event of a road emergency (such as a sign with flashing lights), the station should move to a channel 1610 kHz or below. If a LPAM station needs a channel and it is determined that the only channel available can cause interference to the TIS (or vice versa), the LPAM can take that channel and the TIS would not be protected. For now, we only seeing this being issue in large metro areas like Los Angeles. REC LPAM Home