Filing comments in RM-11909
Greetings from Riverton. As you may know by now, the FCC has put LP-250 back on the radar with their public notice of REC’s Petition for Rulemaking (PRM), RM-11909.
This PRM was filed over a year ago, and normally, when a PRM is received, the FCC will review the petition to assure it is for something of substance that should even be considered and then if so, they will assign it an RM number and put it on public notice, which happened last Friday. A previous PRM filed by REC to allow AM stations to get back their historic 3 or 4 letter callsigns to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of commercial broadcasting was never assigned an RM number. In the case of LP-250, I believe it was a meeting with FCC staff I had earlier that week that prompted this to move forward and that’s where we are right now.
Where we once were is very important to where we are now
First, a little history of what lead to this PRM. As you may know, REC has filed two previous PRMs for a 250-watt LPFM station class. RM-11749 was an attempt to resume discussion of a 250-watt LPFM service without the distraction of the 10-watt LP-10 service that was removed in 2012. Confusion by the FCC on who is truly advocating for LPFM caused the FCC to reject LP-250 at the time (the true advocates for LPFM the FCC should have been listening to was Prometheus, Common Frequency and REC, instead, they listened to a group of hobbyists and non-broadcast advocacy organizations). RM-11749 included some additional complexities such as a “backstop” for LP-250 upgrades on LPFM stations with very large service contours. This was in reaction to a situation in Los Angeles where Educational Media Foundation (the “K-Love” folks) were filing an objection against such an LPFM application because of interference concerns. The “backstop” required a contour study on certain LPFM applications.
Our second PRM, RM-11810 was issued in response to the unfair treatment LPFM had been receiving as a result of the influx of translators coming into urban areas causing interference to existing LPFM stations and destroying many future opportunities for new community stations. In RM-11810, REC reinterpreted the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (LCRA) and reminded the FCC that certain aspects of the LCRA does not apply to the LPFM to FM Translator relationship. RM-11810 also acknowledged the maturity of the LPFM service with over half of the applications filed in the 2013 window being done with “hired help”. REC asked for processes for filing LPFM applications more similar to those for translators, while staying within the confines of the LCRA.
In the FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) MB Docket 19-193, the FCC did move forward on various things that were proposed such as allowing contour studies to protect TV Channel 6, FM boosters for LPFMs and extension of the minor change distance. A previous proceeding, MB Docket 19-3, made modifications to the assignment process and extended construction permits, both of which were proposed by REC in RM-11810. With the rejection of LP-250 in the NPRM, REC and many stations and other supporters expressed their concerns regarding the FCC’s rejection and called for the FCC to move forward with LP-250. In the Report and Order (R&O) for the 19-193 proceeding, the FCC finally explained why they rejected the previous (RM-11810) LP-250 proposal. They considered the proposal “too complex” for applicants and it was the FCC’s intention to keep LPFM as simplistic as possible. They also stated that our proposal to allow LP-250 to as many stations as possible by allowing interfering contours to cross into a 20 kilometer “buffer zone” (which has been in effect since day one of LPFM) would cause issues with the LCRA.
Three weeks prior to the FCC open meeting that would vote on the 19-193 R&O, the FCC released a draft circulation document of the order. I used the next two weeks to discuss it with Audio Division staff as well as with the media advisors for all 5 FCC Commissioners. During that period, I also ran various reports to see what the impact was if we were to create LP-250 with longer distance separation, thus keeping the 20 kilometer buffer zone (it is important to remember that back in 2011, the FCC proposed an LP-250 service on their own where the buffer zone would be penetrated, just like what we proposed in RM-11749 and 11810). As a result of the reports, I came back to FCC staff and stated that we can extend the distances and remove the concepts that would require contour studies and just make LP-250 look like LP-100 but with bigger numbers. The FCC came back and stated that it was too far into the proceeding to look at something different and invited REC to re-file the plan. That’s what we did. That plan, is “Simple 250”, also known now as RM-11909.
In the 19-193 proceeding, one of the biggest objections raised by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is that LPFM is supposed to be “hyperlocal” and that 3.5 miles is hyperlocal enough. Those of us who live in rural and suburban areas will staunchly disagree with that statement. While 3.5 miles may be hyperlocal for San Francisco, Detroit and Philadelphia, it is not for a large majority of the land mass in our country.
For Simple 250, REC has taken a rural-themed approach. This approach is based on the fact that a large percentage of the qualified stations are in less spectrum populated rural and suburban areas. We also reminded the FCC of other rural initiatives, both in broadcast and in non-broadcast (such as broadband services) that the FCC has been working on to improve the quality of life. This is a direct counter to the NAB’s meritless hyperlocal arguments made during the 19-193 proceeding.
The RM-11909 Simple 250 proposal
The proposal is simple, hence the name. We are simply asking the FCC to add a second class of service for a 250 watt at 30 meter height above average terrain (HAAT) service and use required separation distances that would correspond to the larger service area. This meant that LP-250 stations would need to be between 5 to 9 kilometers farther away from other stations (on the same) channel, then what is currently allowed for LP-100. All other rules are pretty much the same, just scaled for LP-250. No new contour studies or other complexities were added. In other words, Simple 250.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE PETITION (opens separate window)
What can we do to support?
Check to see if you can get LP-250 at your station
First, visit https://check.lp250.com and check your station to see if it may be upgrade eligible. This will give you the first basis on how you can comment, either as a station that would benefit from a power increase that they would otherwise qualify for or a station that would not qualify for the upgrade but is still supportive.
Discuss your station
In comments, hype up your station and tell the FCC and those who are reading the comments what your station is doing, especially if it fills an unmet need such as serving a specific minority or religious group. Avoid discussing anything that may seem like you are competing with the commercial stations (such as “we are the only station that plays 70s deep album tracks”, etc.). Talk about your organization if it also provides community services outside of broadcasting. Talk about things your station has done for the community, especially things you are very proud of and any recognition the station has received for performing those functions.
Discuss your community
Discuss your current community, basic issues in your community and the people in your community and then wind it into how the station serves the people of the community.
Discuss your geography
This one is very important for the rural stations. Discuss the geographic nature of the areas surrounding the main community including how far away from “Main Street” people identify as being from that community. Discuss the population density, especially if it is spread out because of farms, etc. The idea is to argue that the need to serve a community, especially in a rural area, goes well past a 3.5 mile circle around Main Street. Remember, one of the recent NAB battle cries in their anti-250 playbook has been that 3.5 miles is hyperlocal enough. We need to show that in many parts of America, hyperlocal is much further out!
Discuss your station technical issues
Many LPFM stations are dealing with coverage issues such as trying to reach population areas that are outside of the coverage area, interference from other stations as well as issues like building penetration, even inside the 3.5 mile area. Provide information on listener feedback where they can’t hear the station too well, especially if they are located between 3.5 and 4.5 miles from the station. Explain how LP-250 could address the issues your station currently experiences.
Discuss your local infrastructure
Especially for rural areas, explain how, because of infrastructure reasons such as a lack of wireless or broadband services, your audience is more dependent on radio for information, emergency alerts, entertainment and companionship. You can tie-in some of your programs that address these issues.
Discuss your community demographics
Demographics go beyond just race and age, but also discuss the area’s socioeconomic makeup, which could affect their ability to use advanced broadband and mobile services, thus increasing the dependency on traditional radio. Discuss the types of industry in the area (or lack of) and how this is impacting the overall quality of life in your community. Again, tie in any station programs that may address these disparities. If there are immigrant enclaves in your community, talk about them and what the station is doing to serve those communities. Remember, keep a special focus on listeners (and potential listeners) that may be more than 3.5 miles out, but where your community is still the nexus.
Discuss the social benefits
Explain how LP-250 would allow you to better reach your overall audience or a targeted aspect of your audience, especially in underserved aspect of the community that is outside the 3.5 mile zone.
Maintain decorum and stay professional
We know how some of you feel about the NAB, the FCC, K-Love/EMF, the religious broadcasters, the full-power stations, the translator operators, certain political parties, big tech, etc. However, using the comments to air out your grievances over the overall nature of the broadcast industry is not the way to get anything done. It is only a distraction from other aspects of your own comments as well as can distract from the important comments of others. Keep comments, especially at this time very positive and avoid reactions and starting confrontations. If this petition goes to an NPRM down the road, then there will be a reply comment period to rebut the comments made by others.
This is very important because organizations like the NAB paint LPFMers as mere amateurs who have no regard for the rules or good engineering, and some in the industry continue to equate LPFM to pirate radio. We are much better than that.
I know what I want to say, now what?
First, pull out your favorite text editor, whether its MS Word, Open Office or for that matter, nano or vi. Your comments do not need to follow a specific format. They do not need to use the legal caption format or contain tons of footnotes or citations like the comments from REC and the other big orgs have. Make sure you re-read your comments and assure that is really what you want to say, because once you submit comments, you can’t “pull them back” (you can always file a correction), but everything you file goes on the public record. Save your document, preferably as a PDF if your software will support it. Otherwise a Word .doc/.docx format or even a text file (.txt) is OK with the FCC’s systems. Do not put any macros or passwords on your documents as they may get rejected by the system.
Accessing the FCC’s Comment Filing System
To get to the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) visit https://fcc.gov/ecfs. At the top menu, click the link that reads “Submit a FILING”. Fill in the “proceeding(s)” field with RM-11909. As you type, the system will look for the proceeding in the box below the field. Go ahead and select RM-11909. Fill in your name, address and email address, it is mainly self-explanatory. The filing type is “Comment”. There are a bunch of fields, like “File number” that you can skip. If there is no asterisk (*) next to a field, then you don’t have to fill it in.
At the bottom of the page, there is a link to upload the document you typed up. Go ahead and upload it and once uploaded, click on the submit button.
After that, you will reach a confirmation screen. Your filing is not done yet. If you want an email confirmation that your filing was sent, there’s a box there to click. Then go ahead and click the submit button to file your comments.
Click.. click.. done!
Once submitted, the comments may take up to 48 hours to show up in the ECFS system for reviewing (weekend filings may show up on Monday or Tuesday of the week following).
Hopefully, this information helps you in filing your comments and support of something for the greater good of community radio, even if LP-250 will not be able to benefit your specific station. Our strength comes in numbers. Let’s do this! Thank you in advance!