FCC Denies LP-250 Appeal

Submitted by Todd Urick on Sat, 06/05/2021 - 16:39

Low Power FM (LPFM) stations have been challenged in recent years due to incoming inference on the FM band due to the total increase in FM licensed facilities placing signals in areas that once had no signal.  In 2020, the FCC opened a LPFM Technical Rules rule making to streamline some of the LPFM rules, with consideration of upgrading the power of LPFM from 100 watts to 250 watts.  The LPFM Technical Report and Order (MB Docket 19-193) eventually flatly rejected the proposed wattage improvement, flatly disregarding a litany of compelling reasons for the FCC to embrace the proposal.  A group LPFM proponents headed by Common Frequency and Prometheus Radio Project filed Petition for Reconsideration on the matter because the Report and Order did not address any of the points Common Frequency/Prometheus raised on their conjoint Reply Comments filed on the Docket.

The Reconsideration was announced to be included on the agenda within the Commission' s June meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 17, 2021.  Recently a draft order was released with a blanket dismissal by the FCC concerning the arguments.  Foremost, the FCC explains that the petitioners were simply re-arguing their comments concerning the advocating of a 250 watt LPFM upgrade.  The FCC presents the weakest reasoning for denying the appeal because the crux of the Petitioner's arguments were than the FCC did not address their evidence within the rulemaking, an argued contravention of the Administrative Procedure Act, which the Commission also flouted as untrue by the proffering weak reasoning.  

Also within the appeal, the petitioners also questioned the requirement that LPFM stations that propose directional antennas pay $1000's of dollars to have those antenna patterns to be pre-tested to make sure they comply to their proposed pattern.  Petitioners pointed out that engineering/physics-wise, it is redundant for a LPFM station to comply with minimum distance requirements (distance placement to other radio stations assuming a full omnidirectional pattern), while additionally complying with an directive for placement of an antenna that uses less wattage in specific directions than a full pattern (which doesn't require pre-test).  The FCC appeared to ignore this and simply assert that stations should redundantly comply.

In the same vein as the directional antenna requirement decision, petitioners also questioned why LPFMs needed special "Type Certified" transmitters, while full power FM stations, FM boosters, Class D NCE FM stations, and FM translators -- which all in certain cases use the same amount of broadcast wattage than LPFM service -- only need "Type Accepted" transmitters.  This precludes LPFM from using transmitters that regular full power broadcast stations and translators utilize.  The FCC uses an ad hoc, erred argument to justify the need for LPFM transmitters to specifically use transmitters certified by a third-party testing lab.  

The only way to appeal the Reconsideration would be for the petitioners to go to court, which would be long and costly.  However, the silver lining here is that the FCC hastefully dismissed this Reconsideration to concurrently advance a new proposal for LP-250 rulemaking by REC Networks.  The Petition for Rulemaking (PRM), RM-11909, can be viewed here.