Statement of REC Networks: 19-193 Petition for Reconsideration filed by LPFM Engineers & Commenters
Over the weekend prior to July 13, 2020, in response to the publication of the final rules from MB Docket 19-193 in the Federal Register, LPFM engineers Paul Bame and Todd Urick as well as representatives of various LPFM stations including Peter Gray of KFZR-LP, Makeda Dread Cheatom of KVIB-LP, Brad Johnson of KGIG-LP, David Stepanyuk of KIEV-LP, and Andy Hansen-Smith of KCFZ-LP filed a Petition for Reconsideration in support of LP-250, directional antennas and the ability to operate "type-accepted" (in addition to "type-certified") transmitters in the LPFM service.
REC is in full concurrence with the authors of this Petition on the LP-250 argument. The Commission did fail to consider the original proposal from REC in RM-11749. In that petition, REC proposed the ability for LPFM stations that met specific distance separation criteria would be able to upgrade to a new LP250 service class with a 7.1 kilometer service contour. The core of the proposal in RM-11749 was the same proposal made by the Commission in the Fourth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in MM Docket 99-25 with an additional provision that would have required a contour study if the proposed LPFM facility or a potentially impacted protected incumbent facility had a service contour with a lobe that measured a distance -10 dB over the the appropriate class maximum service contour (44 dBu for class B, 47 dBu for class B1 and 50 dBu for all other station classes) in any direction (For example, an LPFM station with a service contour lobe that exceeds 12.7 km in any direction from the LPFM station, or a Class A FM station with a service contour lobe that exceeds 46.3 km in any direction from the Class A FM station), that the appropriate interfering contour of the applicant station does not overlap the protected contour of the incumbent FM station. This normally happens when a broadcast station is located on the side of a mountain with higher terrain "behind" the facility and lower terrain "in front" of the facility which results in a low height above average terrain. A phenomenon that we called "Foothill Effect".
As REC stated throughout the RM-11749, RM-11810 and MB Docket 19-193 proceedings, the LPFM service has matured as evidenced by the fact that over 50 percent of the applications filed in the 2013 LPFM Window were filed using "hired help", professionals who have access to the appropriate systems and posses a specific skill set that make them knowledgeable not just on LPFM filings but for filings in other FM broadcast services. The addition of a single contour "backstop" in RM-11749 and the more complex plan of the "§73.815 Regime", introduced in RM-11810 was appropriate as it used accepted engineering methods that have been long used in other radio services.
The authors of the Petition for Reconsideration made several valid arguments of why the FCC should have considered either the REC proposals in RM-11749 or RM-11810.
REC is also in full concurrence with the authors on the issue of directional antennas. The adopted rules are based on some very unfounded fear, mainly conjured up by the National Association of Broadcasters and the New Jersey Broadcasters Association. The rules proposed by REC would have made LPFM stations more harmonized with FM translators. Instead, in some cases (those not related to the use of a directional antenna as a part of a public safety radio service, second-adjacent channel or international requirement) must, when licensed, include a proof of performance and certification. The proof and certification requirements are not normally applied to FM translators, which, under an LPFM distance separation regime would be more vulnerable to interference in the event of a misaligned antenna. We note that REC had filed comments in the data collection notice for this proceeding to indicate that based on §74.1204(a), LPFM stations operating as part of a traveler's information service must be considered as a nondirectional facility in respect to FM translators. This type of protection was extended to LPFM stations seeking to use a directional antenna for second-adjacent channel protection in the MM Docket 99-25 Sixth Report and Order. REC's position is that any rules related to the placement of directional antennas should be consistent with the FCC rules relating to FM translators. Further, in RM-11810, REC had proposed to implement translator style interference remediation regime similar to the ones used for FM translators when contours or a directional antenna is utilized (this was part of the §73.815 Regime).
REC is not in concurrence with the authors on the issue of certified transmitters. REC recognizes that while there may be type accepted (non-certified) equipment that can be utilized that can meet FCC expectations for addressing out of tolerance conditions, some older transmitters, may require manual meter readings and manual adjustments of out of tolerance conditions. We also must recognize the considerable number of models of FM transmitters that are imported to the United States, were never certified and are listed on mass market retail websites such as Amazon.com and eBay.com. These imported transmitters carry a risk of spurious emissions, which could interfere with aeronautical safety of life messages. Until the Federal Trade Commission, the FCC or Congress determines that uncertified FM transmission devices are not to be imported or marketed in the United States, we can't be sure whether an LPFM station, especially one with limited staffing and engineering experience has deployed an uncertified transmitter that would further create an unnecessary risk to out of band safety of life communications. Despite the lack of concurrence on this issue, REC will not file an Opposition to this reconsideration petition on this subject. We would rather see the FTC, FCC, Department of Justice and Congress address the overall issue of uncertified and "dirty" transmitters washing up on our shores.
On behalf of REC Networks, I would like to show my appreciation and thanks to Paul Bame, Todd Urick, Peter Gray, Makeda Dread Cheatom, Brad Johnson, David Stepanyuk and Andy Hansen-Smith for bringing up these issues in the Petition for Reconsideration in a detailed and very well-written pleading, and I will wish them luck as MB Docket 19-193 continues through the legal processes.
REC has refiled the LP250 Petition for Rulemaking which proposed a "simple LP250" service, mainly for rural areas, but without geographic restrictions. As of July 14, 2020, this petition is still awaiting a rulemaking (RM) number. REC and other members of the LPFM community are doing what they can to keep 250-watt LPFM on the FCC's radar.
REC is also aware of another timely filed Petition for Reconsideration filed by Foundation for a Beautiful Life, former permittees of KQEK-LP. REC plans to file an Opposition to the issues raised in that specific petition.
Michelle Bradley, CBT