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Proposes to create a second regime of protection for full-service FM, Class D, FM translators, FM boosters and other LPFM stations


WASHINGTON — REC Networks filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC calling for changes in how LPFM stations are required to protect FM translators. There’s a lot to digest here, and for those interested in LPFM and its impact on others, it’s worth a deeper read here .

In the June 13 filing (RM-11810), REC’s Michelle Bradley writes that the petition addresses “various issues that had been precluding a more successful deployment of Low Power FM stations, especially in suburban and core urban areas.”

Specifically, “REC proposes to create a §73.815 Regime of protection for protecting full-service FM, Class D, FM translators, FM boosters and other LPFM stations which is available to LPFM stations that specify locations that do not meet the current distance separation requirements of §73.807.”

According to a summary on REC’s website, “Due to the way the LCRA was worded, REC is making a case that a table of lower distances, originally intended for 10 watt LPFM stations was codified in the rules when the LCRA was enacted and that the Commission can use those numbers.” Bradley also notes that many of the suggestions were previously was raised in the 2017 Media Modernization proceeding (MB Docket 17-105).

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the current and proposed second regimes:

Current Regime (§73.807)

  • 50 to 100 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 5.6 km service contour)
  • Protects full-service stations using specific distance separations.
  • Protects FM translators and LPFM stations using specific distance separations.
  • Because of distance separation, any interference to other facilities is non-actionable. Full-service stations that file subsequent applications can only legally displace an LPFM station if there is LPFM interfering contour overlap in the city grade contour of city of license of the modified full-service station.

Second Regime (§73.815)

  • 50 to 250 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 7.1 km service contour)
  • Protects full-service stations by contours but must also meet a distance separation using reduced requirements from §73.807.
  • Protects FM translators and LPFM stations using contours.
  • Because of using contours, any interference to or from other facilities is actionable and will be handled through similar rules used by FM translators.
  • Second (§73.815) Regime applies only if the LPFM creates a new or increased §73.807 short-spacing of full-service or translators or if the LPFM wishes to operate with a faciliy that exceeds 100 watts at 30m HAAT (maximum 250 watts at 30m HAAT).

Additionally, the petition sugggests a variety of changes that reflect what they consider to be the “maturity” of the LPFM service, and also “allows LPFM stations more options for changes and presents them in a manner that is respectful to Commission policy and decorum and does not put the grant of any existing cross-service FM translator license at risk.”

In the petition’s conclusion, Bradley urges the commission to “adopt this rulemaking and help move LPFM forward to the next generation in a manner that strikes a balance between community need and crowded spectrum while respecting the status quo.”

Read the full petition online here.

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Filers have expressed concern about difficulties of prepping info for filing

WASHINGTON — To gather more accurate information about existing earth stations and to better determine if access to the 3.7–4.2 GHz band should be expanded, the Federal Communications Commission is giving fixed-satellite service earth stations more time to detail their current usage of C Band spectrum.

Back in April of this year, four FCC bureaus issued a Public Notice announcing a temporary freeze on the filing of new or modification applications for FSS earth station licenses, FSS receive-only earth station registrations and fixed microwave licenses in the 3.7–4.2 GHz frequency band. This was done to give the FCC an accurate snapshot of the C Band landscape. The commission is looking into the feasibility of permitting terrestrial broadband use within this band and will consider an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this issue at its July Open Meeting.

Since the beginning of the freeze, however, many parties have shared their concerns with the FCC about the volume of unregistered earth stations and the difficulties that many of these operators may be facing in preparing information for filing.

These parties indicate that without some relief, many operators will be unable to satisfy the filing deadline and the commission will be without accurate information for its deliberations in the midband proceeding,” the FCC said in a public notice released June 21 .

As a result, the International Bureau has extended the 90-day filing date for an additional 90 days — until October 17 — in order to provide operators with more time to file applications. Keep in mind that only earth stations constructed and operational as of April 19, are eligible for filing during this window.

That original 90-day filing window was due to expire on July 18.The FCC also waived the coordination report requirement for the duration of the freeze and clarified that applications to register multiple FSS antennas in this band (those located at the same location) may be filed by using a single registration form and paying a single fee. The bureau also announced that those who are registering a large number of geographically diverse earth stations can submit a single network license to ease issues with batch filing.

The National Association of Broadcasters has been vocal in expressing its concerns about sharing C Band spectrum with wireless operators. In a filing submitted earlier this month, the NAB urged the commission to require proponents of expanded use to submit specific and detailed technical proposals to the commission. “That is the only way to allow stakeholders to provide informed comments and analysis to guide the commission’s decision-making process,” the NAB said.

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Licensee allegedly failed to state that station operated at unauthorized power for more than a year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of apparent forfeiture to a Michigan FM licensee for alleged unauthorized operation, a late-filed special temporary authority request and failure to disclose key information.

The problem seems to have started with flooding. Licensee Roy E. Henderson filed a silent STA application in February 2015 due to an incident of flooding at station WBNZ(FM) in Frankfort, Mich. He told the FCC that WBNZ was forced off the air in January 2015 when a broken frozen water main caused damage and interior flooding to the station. The station would need to remain off the air until repair needs could be determined, he told the commission.

As part of its investigation, the FCC asked for updates on the station’s operational status, but issues arose during the course of the investigation — including a late reply from Henderson regarding exactly when the station came back on the air, initially insufficient proof about how long the station has been off the air, and the revelation that the station was operating at reduced power.

The bureau found that while the station had not been silent for more than a year, the station had operated at an unauthorized power level. The station also failed to request an STA in a timely manner to operate at this reduced power level.

“Licensee merely stated that ‘WBNZ is currently operating at the reduced power of 1.4 kW,’ but failed to state that, in fact, the station had been operated with that unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing the engineering STA application,” the FCC said.

After researching the issue, the Media Bureau found three infractions: that Henderson willfully and repeatedly operated WBNZ at variance from its license without commission authority; that he failed to timely file an STA; and he failed to disclose material information regarding the unauthorized operations.

The bureau concluded that Henderson is liable for a monetary forfeiture of $18,000 for the violations.

Specifically, the bureau proposed a $10,000 forfeiture for unauthorized operation, $3,000 for failing to timely file the required STA, and $5,000 for failing to disclose a material fact in the engineering STA — namely that Henderson failed to reveal that the station had been operated with an unauthorized power reduction for nearly 17 months before filing an STA.

Henderson has 30 days to pay the full amount or to file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.

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The Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act provides additional tools to the FCC to address illegal radio operations

WASHINGTON — The PIRATE Act is one step closer to becoming law.

On June 13, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology unanimously voted to pass the PIRATE Act, otherwise known as the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, which provides additional tools to the Federal Communications Commission to address illegal pirate radio operations.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly applauded the move, which sends a “clear message that pirate radio ‘stations’ must be eliminated,” he said. “This bill rightfully increases the penalties, requires regular enforcement sweeps, and augments the tools available to the commission to stop illegal pirate broadcasters.

“Today’s mark-up is an important step forward in ensuring the PIRATE Act becomes law and I look forward to seeing the bill take the next step in the legislative process,” O’Rielly continued. 

The decision was also supported by the National Association of Broadcasters, who saluted co-authors Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Rep. Mike Tonko (D-N.Y.) for their bipartisan sponsorship of the legislation.

“The bipartisan legislation will increase the ability of the FCC to crack down on pirate activity by increasing fines, streamlining enforcement and placing liability those who facilitate illegal radio broadcasts,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.

The bill now heads to the Energy and Commerce committee for consideration.

As reported in Radio World, the PIRATE Act proposes to hike the fine for violations to as much as $100,000 per day, with a maximum fine of $2 million. The rules currently allow the FCC to impose a maximum daily penalty of about $19,200 per day.

The bill has been endorsed by several groups including the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and New York State Broadcasters Association, with association President David Donovan telling lawmakers at a subcommittee hearing earlier this year that illegal operators are undermining the nation’s Emergency Alert System, causing invasive and insidious interference, posing potential public health problems due to overexposure to radio frequency radiation, and interfering with airport communications.

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He says 48 dBµ would be a more appropriate value than 54 dBµ

WASHINGTON — In comments to the FCC, Crawford Broadcasting Director of Engineering W. Cris Alexander argued that the broadcaster “has interests on both sides of the FM translator interference issue” — meaning that the company and its affiliates currently are licensees of 15 AM and nine FM commercial stations plus nine FM translators. This, Crawford says, means they have a “unique perspective on the issue and perhaps a more balanced view.”

In light of that, Alexander submitted comments on behalf of Crawford regarding the proposed amendment of Part 74 of the Commission’s Rules Regarding FM Translator Interference (MB Docket No. 18-119). He expressed support for the commission’s reform efforts and offered additional suggestions. (Cris Alexander also is a contributor to Radio World, which was not involved in the filing.)

[Read about the commissioners’ opinions on the proposed changes.]

First, Alexander, writes: “We believe that the provisions of §74.1203(a) and §74.1204(f) should be harmonized so that predicted interference to existing listeners outside the translator 60 dBµ contour can be addressed prior to grant of the translator application. What constitutes ‘interference’ is well defined in the FCC’s rules by means of codified protection ratios, and we believe these ratios should be applied to predicted interference cases prior to grant of a legitimately-objected translator application.”

He notes that this is advantageous because it would help to prevent “drawn-out and often expensive interference complaint prosecution” by eliminating cases in which “a proposed translator will ‘pass the test’ provided by §74.1204(f) because there is no predicted interference to existing full-power station listeners within the translator 60 dBµ contour, but after operation commences, existing listeners located outside the translator 60 dBµ contour begin receiving interference.”

Additionally, this is important, Alexander says, because ofen “the damage is done in fairly short order after the translator signs on — those existing listeners displaced by the translator interference often tune elsewhere and may not ever return.”

Alexander also supports “the proposed modification of Section 74.1233(a)(1) of the Rules to define an FM translator’s change to any available channel as a minor change as a means of mitigating legitimate interference to an existing full-power broadcast station.” This is consistent with the idea that it’s important to offer “fast and complete resolution of interference issues.”

He also concurs that six is a good minimum number of listener complaints to be used to claim translator interference, saying that a “station bringing this many complaints undoubtedly has a real interference issue.”

Regarding the complaints themselves, Alexander agrees that listener complaints should include sufficient information “for the translator licensee to follow up… determine the listener’s exact location, and make measurements and tests at that location.” He notes that this would also ensure that the complainant is not affiliated with the full-power station.

In fact, Alexander writes that it would be bettter to remove the middleman — the complaining listener — from the process as soon as possible because complaining listeners “ may be uncooperative,” hard to contact or could even be bribed to withdraw their complaint.

Instead, he suggests, the resolution should be determined through “a technical showing that all interference has been eliminated.” Specifically, he writes, “any showing by the translator licensee should include a U/D study based upon the F(50, 50) and F(50, 10) field strength charts contained in Section 73.333, unless the use of the Longley-Rice propagation model is indicated based upon established criteria.”

Also, Alexander argues “there should be a full-power station field strength value beyond which no complaint of actual or predicted interference will be considered actionable.” However, he says that they do not “believe that 54 dBµ is the appropriate value for this cutoff field strength.” Rather, Crawford says, “a better compromise would be 48 dBµ, which represents an electric field strength value of 250 µV/m. We believe this value to be appropriate for all classes of FM stations and do not recommend that a different value be adopted for class B or B1 stations.”

He explains that a recent listener survey indicated that “92% of the respondents regularly listen in areas beyond the 54 dBµ contour and with predicted field strengths well below that value;” and he said the same is likely the case for class B1 stations which are protected to 57 dBµ, “it is likely that there are listeners to even lower field strength signals than to those with a 60 dBµ protected contour.” He cited also cited a 1975 study and report that indicated there was “some argument for a value of 47 dBu” field strength as a cutoff for interference complaints.

Read his comments online here. Comments on MB Docket No. 18-119 are due July 6 and reply comments are due Aug. 6. 

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They’re pushing back hard and seeking Hill help to reinstate Title II protections

WASHINGTON — Net neutrality activist groups were lining up their protest efforts Monday (June 11) as the FCC’s rules against online blocking, throttling and paid prioritization sunset in favor of a deregulatory regime centered on Federal Trade Commission oversight/enforcement.

But they were also playing down any immediate changes, likely an effort to take some of the shine off deregulation fans’ argument that the internet will look no different Monday than it did the day before.

“Users will see no changes to the internet,” read an email from a company promoting the various efforts to protest the rule rollback. “Big cable and ISPs will take their time to block, throttle, and prevent users from freely accessing the internet.”

But activists weren’t taking their time in pushing back hard and seeking Hill help.

The Voices for Internet Freedom coalition, for example, was hosting an “emergency meeting” Monday night to “learn how the Trump FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality will impact communities of color and why the fight to protect the open internet is a critical racial justice issue.”

Coalition members include 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, Free Press Action Fund, Color Of Change and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

And while various groups and websites were adding protest banners and widgets Monday as an online “action day,” Public Knowledge, Common Cause, Center for American Progress, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Consumers Union, Center for Media Justice and others were planning a second action day June 26 on the Hill in advance of the July 4 break.

While ISPs and Republicans have been pushing for bipartisan network neutrality legislation, the Hill advocacy day will be targeted toward getting House members to sign on to the Congressional Reform Act resolution to restore the network neutrality rules by nullifying their rollback.

That CRA passed narrowly in the Senate, but according to the groups, there are currently 174 House members supporting it, which is not even all the Dems and far short of the 218 they would need to force a vote in the House.

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A Congressional effort to revive the rules has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House

WASHINGTON — June 11 marked the end of the road for Title II regulations, more commonly known as “net neutrality,” as the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the rules has now taken effect.

The FCC released a statement standing by its repeal and emphasizing that the “internet wasn’t broken” in 2015 when the rules were passed, framing the repeal as a return to the “light-touch approach” that was in place as the Internet first formed and grew, with some enhanced rules on disclosure requirements for service providers, according to rcrwireless.com . As just one example: If customers’ terms of service do change, it must be disclosed to them.

An effort in Congress to revive the rules — under which internet service providers were required to provide equal access to all content without throttling, blocking or offering paid priority based on the service or content — has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House. There are still state attorneys general fighting the repeal in the courts, and some states are attempting to put their own net neutrality rules in place.

As one example, on May 30, the California State Senate overwhelmingly passed strong net neutrality legislation despite “fierce opposition from big ISPs, including AT&T and Comcast,” according to lightreading.com . The California bill (SB 822) would amend state law by adding several online practices to the state’s Consumers’ Legal Remedies Act’s definition of “certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in the provision of goods and services in the state. “Under the bill, those unfair methods would now include blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of web content, as well as paid zero-rating plans.”

The FCC order eliminating the federal net neutrality rules pre-empts states from trying to impose the rules within their boundaries. “So a classic states’ rights court battle is brewing in Sacramento, especially if other states either follow California’s legislative lead or require providers to adhere to net neutrality rules when they sign government broadband deals,” according to the same article in Light Reading. 

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One chief engineer describes the current downlink registration process as “akin to paying a more powerful mob for protection from other mobs”


As you know, all of us have been inundated with notices from various satellite program carriers about the latest fiasco with the FCC over use of C-band satellite frequencies as an ancillary terrestrial frequency band for cellphone and automotive data conveyance. Hence, the concern over interference with all of our C-band satellite program delivery from these outside sources.

What I don’t get is why do thousands of broadcasters and home C-band satellite TV hobbyists have to foot the bill for “registering” their earth stations for protection with the FCC? This to me is akin to paying a more powerful mob for protection from other mobs in old Chicago back in the 1920s. 

Seems to me our tax payer dollars — along with licensing fees for every RF conveyance under the sun in radio and TV — should already be paying for this kind of protection from the big boy on the block. 

Why is it that the FCC is totally unaware of the entire C band’s use for the broadcasting industry? Seems like there had to be a CFR agreement somewhere about international usage of this band for broadcaster use around the globe. 

 You can’t tell me the FCC was unaware of the tremendous use placed on this band for delivery of hundreds of radio talk shows, hundreds of TV shows, both network and syndicated, not to mention this is the band that local TV stations depend on to do local uplinks back to the studio when they are on live remote in their community or across the country. TV and radio networks that use this band abound, and it’s crowded with all kinds of programming, both in vertical and horizontal polarizations on dozens of transponders.

So why wouldn’t the FCC automatically protect this band from terrestrial interference as a matter of natural course? After all, it is their job, for God’s sake! 

Why charge us individually to protect us from outside interference, when protecting the bands from interference is supposed to be the mission of the FCC? Did I miss something? 

The author is chief engineer of Carroll Broadcasting and PD of WIOS(AM) 1480 in Tawas City, Mich.

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Commission alleges 65 AV transmitters intended to relay video to UAS can transmit in unauthorized radio frequency bands

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to come down hard on a manufacturer whose devices could potentially transmit without authorization in certain radio frequency bands.

The FCC proposed a $2.8 million penalty against HobbyKing, a provider of audio/video transmitters that are intended to relay video to unmanned aircraft systems and other devices. According to the commission, 65 of these devices have the alleged capacity to transmit in unauthorized radio frequency bands, including some models that could allegedly operate at what the FCC called “excessive transmission power levels.”

According to the commission, transmissions such as these could potentially interfere with key government and public safety services like aviation systems and weather radar systems.

The FCC did not detail any specific incidents in its announcement.

Through its website , the Hong Kong-based company markets devices that the commission said provides a video link between transmitters that are mounted on unmanned aircraft systems and users who are flying drones. According to the commission, HobbyKing represented that its transmitters operated in designated amateur radio bands; an investigation by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau found that 65 models could also apparently operate outside those bands.

FCC authority is required for users operating a radio frequency-emitting device that could potentially operate outside of the designated amateur-use radio frequency bands. The commission said that none of the devices in question marketed by HobbyKing were certified by the commission. In addition, the FCC said that all amateur equipment used to telecommand model crafts are limited to 1,000 mW of power. The commission said in its announcement that three HobbyKing transmitter models allegedly operate at 1,500 mW and 2000 mW.

Following complaints to the FCC, the bureau opened an investigation in 2015 into the company’s marketing of radio frequency devices and issued a formal citation in 2017 to warn the company that it must comply with FCC requirements.

The steep proposed penalty is not only for marketing noncompliant radio frequency devices but also for failing to comply with commission orders. According to the commission, HobbyKing failed to respond to the enforcement bureau’s previously issued a citation notifying HobbyKing of its legal and regulatory obligations. The company also failed to stop marketing the alleged noncompliant equipment despite a cease and desist order from the FCC. Current law requires companies to respond to requests from the FCC after being warned of possible violations.

The FCC said that HobbyKing has an opportunity to respond to the proposed assessment, and reminded the public that the commission will consider submitted evidence and legal arguments before taking further action.

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He is concerned engineers are too busy, or stations feel they can’t pay the $435 filing fee to register their downlinks

We have been hearing a lot about C-Band satellite dish registration lately. 

It is critical that the Federal Communications Commission understands how pervasive C-Band receive dishes are at radio (and television) stations throughout the United States and its territories before they open the band up to 5G interference. 

I am, however, concerned that many engineers are too busy to bother or stations feel they can’t spend the $435 to pay the filing fee to have their dishes registered.

While I think the FCC should have waived that fee, regardless, here is an alternative idea that might help the commission understand the plethora of C-Band dishes actually in use. 

During the comment period, I would hope that every one of the various radio networks who distribute their content via C-Band satellite — as well as the networks who lease transponder space from other networks — will file comments complete with a detailed list of call letters and locations (by city and state) of their affiliates. 

Certainly those networks know who their affiliates are today because receivers have to be permissioned (authorized) to receive the signals and the networks have these records. If every network files this information with the FCC, the commissioners will have a robust, accurate list of the scope of this situation — and the potential disaster that is awaiting if they try to share this spectrum with carriers opening up 5G services.

In addition, those who feed translators and full-service stations by satellite (thinking NPR, EMF, Salem, Moody, etc.) on a full-time basis could be particularly hard hit and should file that same list with the commission.

INTERFERENCE EXPERIENCE

This brings to mind issues we had in Florida (as well as in other coastal areas) post-9/11 when Airborne Early Warning and Control System sentries were patrolling with their very high-power radar turned on. 

This was a major issue for me and many other engineers in our area. About every 20 seconds, our receivers would mute for about 1-2 seconds and come back on. We purchased a filter and installed it on our feed horn, but that did not solve the problem. 

Initially, the USAF denied they were causing this interference, but enough complaints surfaced that they changed their ways to eliminate the problem (that they had not been causing in the first place), and it went away. That was transitory and was solved. 

In my case, we have two cellular providers on our 400-foot tower at the studio, which is also one of our FM station’s transmitter site. We have our C-Band receive dish approximately 50 feet from that tower. I can’t imagine trying to eliminate co-channel interference at that range. Many other engineers will be in a similar situation. 

We should stop this before it gets started.

Kneller is a consultant to Solmart Media LLC.

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