REC Statement on PIRATE Act: HR-583
Overall, REC does support most of the text contained within the PIRATE Act. Improperly operated broadcast transmitters can cause interference to public safety and safety of life communications especially in the aeronautical mobile and aeronautical radionavigation services and higher powered transmitters can pose a public health hazard.
REC does not support the language prohibiting preemption of state or local laws in regards to pirate broadcasting as proposed in pagragraph (e). We feel that regulations regarding the use of radio spectrum apparatus within the jurisdictional limits of the United States is considered interstate commerce and within the domain of the Federal Communications Commission. As state and local agencies do not issue broadcasting licenses and may have different standards as to what constitutes "pirate broadcasting", it does create a conflict between state's rights and what is in the federal domain.
In paragraph (h), REC had previously called notice to the frequency band used to define FM as 88~108 MHz. This has been updated to 87.7 to 108 MHz. REC does call attention to the AM spectrum that has been codified. REC recommends that this band be amended to encompass 525~1715 kHz, especially in light of increased higher-powered pirate radio activity recently observed on 1710 kHz in the eastern United States.
Where this legislation falls short is that it does not address the bigger problem, the flow of uncertified transmitting devices that, without modification can exceed the tolerances allowed for short range devices in accordance with 47 CFR §15 of the Commission's Rules. Sales of illegal equipment are currently being facilitated through the "marketplaces" of major aggregators such as Amazon.com, Ebay and Walmart directly from the companies in China and other places where these transmitters are manufactured. The FCC needs to be more empowered to stand up to Amazon, Ebay, Walmart and others to address the sales of this illegal equipment.
Also, Congress and the Commission need to look at other opportunities that can be achieved to make more spectrum available for small organizations and rural communities, especially towards community of color, religious and sexual minorities. This can be achieved through several methods including:
- redefining second and third adjacent channel NCE protections in cases where rural communities are being denied new localized opportunities as a result of domination of the reserved band spectrum by full-service stations that serve at least 50% of an urbanized area.
- the reallocation of the spectrum between 76~88 MHz from television (Channels 5 and 6) to low and medium-powered broadcasting through the immediate occupation of spectrum where it is not used by a television user and the eventual refarming of remaining Channel 5 and 6 stations through the encouragement of channel sharing and the discouragement of additional spectrum for ATSC3 to clear this spectrum to make 60 additional channels for FM radio.
- In the expanded spectrum, create a small New Zealand-like license free subband to allow micro-powered license free certified FM transmitters with specific operating rules.
- To embrace Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and consider the domestic use of the 11 meter shortwave broadcast band (25.6~26.1 MHz) for the use of lower powered DRM transmitters that can be implemented in all urban areas across the country with minimal interference to incumbents. This band has potential, especially to reach ethnic minority groups in a manner similar to the "narrowcasting" service in Australia.
In short, the PIRATE Act penalizes the small "users", does nothing to address the big "dealers" and does not address the overall issue, the lack of localism in radio and the lack of remaining spectrum for those who wish to bring localism back to the dial.
February 25, 2019