REC 2018 LPFM Petition for Rulemaking

On June 13, 2018, REC Networks has filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC.  This petition addresses many of the issues that was raised by REC in the 2017 Media Modernization proceeding (MB Docket 17-105).

The petition has been assigned RM-11810 from the FCC.  Comments are being taken between June 20~July 19, 2018.  Visit to file your comments (remember to select proceeding RM-11810).

Now that the two filing windows for new cross-service FM translators as a part of Ajit Pai’s AM Revitalization initiative have completed and we have a general idea of station locations, we can now gauge how much spectrum could be available for a future LPFM filing window.

We must also take into consideration the recent actions by Prometheus et al to call attention to the potential impact of the recent cross-service FM translator filing windows as well as other modification applications and their impact on Section 5 of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 (LCRA).  A bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in January, 2011.

Section 5 of the LCRA requires the FCC to assure that licenses are available for LPFM, FM translators and FM boosters and that licenses are available based on community need.   Section 5 also requires that LPFM, FM translators and FM boosters remain secondary and “equal in status”.

One of the major issues in the relationship between LPFM stations and FM translators is the disparity in service rules to how each service protects each other. 

LPFM stations are required to protect FM translators using specific distance separations based on the average field strength of the translator. These distances remain the same regardless of whether the translator is directional or non-directional. LPFM protects FM translators on co-channel, first and second-adjacent channels.  Second-adjacent channel short-spacing can be waived on a showing of no interference to any radio service.

FM translators are required to protect LPFM stations using contours. Contours are based on the translator’s power, height, nearby terrain and directionality of the antenna.  A translator’s interfering contour can not overlap the protected service contour of the LPFM station.  FM translators protect LPFM stations on co-channel and first-adjacent channels only.

Since the translator’s interfering contour is based on their directional antenna, it is possible that an interfering contour can be very short in some directions.  This means that an a translator can be placed fairly close to a LPFM by using a directional antenna that directs most of the power away from the LPFM station.  Since the interfering contour of the translator does not overlap the protected service contour of the LPFM station, the placement of the translator is legal.

This is where there is a problem. The placement of the translator near the LPFM causes a short-spacing but only for the LPFM.  This short-spacing makes it so the LPFM station is limited to where they can move.  They can move closer but they can’t move further away.

What does this petition do?

This petition creates a second “regime” or method of protection between LPFM stations and other facilities.  In the current regime, all protection is done through minimum distance separation.  Under the new regime, we introduce contours so LPFM stations can protect translators like translators protect LPFM.  This regime can be used for protecting full-service stations too but because of a provision in Section 3(b)(1) of the LCRA, we must use a distance separation table for full-service FM stations and the values may not be ones that have been reduced from the time when the LCRA was signed into law.  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.  So under the new regime, LPFM stations can be “short-spaced” based on the values that are available now as long as they meet contour overlap requirements and for full-service stations a shorter minimum distance is kept.

Because of the reduced distance separation for full-service FM and the elimination of distance separation requirements for FM translators and other LPFM stations, this does open potential channels for use in urban areas including New York City.  Actual availability will depend on the service contours of existing translators, full-power stations and also based on specific location in respect to second-adjacent channel protections.


Current Regime (§73.807)

Second Regime (§73.815) 

50 to 100 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 5.6 km service contour)

50 to 250 watts at 30 meters HAAT. (up to a 7.1 km service contour)

Protects full-service stations using specific distance separations.

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 specific distance separations.

Protects FM translators and LPFM stations using contours.

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.

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).

Other items in this petition

  • Add an intermediate frequency (+/- 10.6~10.8) minimum spacing for upgraded LPFM stations operating 101 watts ERP or greater. (This is consistent with the FM translator rules.)
  • Expand the use of directional antennas in LPFM including the use of “composite” antennas and allow the use of directional antennas in areas within 125km of Mexico to allow LPFM stations to increase to higher power while maintaining 50 watts or less in the direction of Mexico.
  • Use the translator procedure to protect TV Channel 6.  This could open up channels in the reserved band (88-92) in many areas.  Many more if the FCC decides to sunset analog low-power TV channel 6 operations.
  • Expand the distance allowed for a minor move from 5.6 km to any location that would result in the protected contour of the current facility overlaps the predicted contour of the proposed site.  (Consistent with translators)
  • Add the ability for other organizations to help “save” stations at the construction phase and for existing stations, remove the three-year holding period.  Add a provision that requires LPFM permits awarded based on points within the first 4 years of operation, any new organization must have an equal or greater point total (consistent with full-power NCE rules).
  • Extend the construction period for original permits and modifications to 36 months without any extensions.
  • Remove the contour overlap and off-air feed requirements for FM translators that are co-owned by LPFM licensees.  Remaining rules will enforce localism.
  • Codify rules for LPFM boosters.
  • Increase the maximum power where IF protection from FM translators can be waived from 99 watts to 100 watts to be consistent with LPFM.

As of June 20, 2018, this petition has been assigned RM-11810.  Please file comments with the FCC by July 19, 2018.

Petition as submitted to the FCC:

How to file comments

Visit the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System at the links below:

For both methods, for Proceeding(s), enter: RM-11810

In the Regular method, enter the Type of Filing as: COMMENT   (you can leave the File Number, Report Number and Bureau ID number blank)

Talking points

When filing comments, it's best to use your own words than just some boilerplate statement that everyone is posting.  When you file comments, here are some things to think about:

  • RM-11810 will help preserve community radio service by offering LPFM stations more opportunities in the event they need to move or change channels.
  • RM-11810 will allow many LPFM stations to increase power to better serve their local communities, including in-building reception as well as strengthen coverage to fringe areas.
  • RM-11810 provides additional anti-interference measures to existing broadcast facilities including full-service and FM translators for LPFM stations who opt to use the proposed §73.815 regime.
  • RM-11810 places LPFM stations on a more level playing field with FM translators and does so in a way that meets the statutory requirements of the Local Community Radio Act.
  • RM-11810 addresses the issue of LPFM stations being "boxed-in" by FM translators in a manner that repects the outcomes of the Auction 83, 99 and 100 filing windows.
  • RM-11810 does not call for the displacement of any FM translator stations in favor of LPFM stations. 
  • RM-11810 allows LPFM stations much more flexibility to operate their stations in a manner that best meets their community's unique needs and geography.
  • RM-11810 prepares for a future LPFM filing window with new potential channels, even in core urban areas.
  • RM-11810 will make it easier for other non-profit organizations to "save" failing stations. 
  • RM-11810 assures that LPFM stations that want to use the existing rules can continue to do so.

Potential availability maps

Using REC"s CIRCLES program and FCC contour data on licensed facilities, we have constructed maps that show the areas where LPFM may be potentially available using the proposed §73.815 Regime.  We will include the top markets and will add other spectrum limits markets.

Top markets

Additional spectrum limited markets

"Spectrum Limited" was based on the 2018 REC LCRA Section 5 channel point report and does not take Auction 99 and 100 transaltors into consideration.  Even if those translators were taken into consideration, these markets would be further spectrum limited.

  • 20. Nassau/Suffolk (Long Island), NY
  • 25. Riverside/San Bernardino, CA
  • 26. San Antonio, TX
  • 28. Pittsburgh, PA
  • 29. Salt Lake City/Ogden/Provo, UT
  • 34. Cleveland, OH
  • 37. San Jose, CA
  • 42. Middlesex/Somerset/Union, NJ
  • 44. Providence/Warwick/Pawtucket, RI
  • 48. West Palm Beach/Boca Raton, FL
  • 54. Monmouth/Ocean, NJ
  • 55. Louisville, KY
  • 64. Dayton, OH
  • 67. Fresno, CA
  • 71. Allentown/Bethlehem, PA
  • 77. Wilkes Barre/Scranton, PA
  • 80. Wilmington, DE
  • 82. Harrisburg-Lebanon-Carlisle, PA
  • 83. Akron, OH
  • 85. Monterey/Salinas/Santa Cruz, CA
  • 96. Portland, ME
  • 97. Reno, NV
  • 108. Fort Collins/Greeley, CO
  • 114. Victor Valley, CA
  • 116 Lancaster, PA
  • 121. Morristown, NJ
  • 126. Bridgeport, CT
  • 131. Youngstown-Warren, OH
  • 133. Reading, PA
  • 139. Canton, OH
  • 150. Ann Arbor, MI

We will prepare these reports on a time available basis.  If you would like to see one of these markets, please let REC know so we can expedite creating those maps.

NOTE: There is nothing in the petition that involves the "spectrum available" vs. "spectrum limited" designations.

More information will be posted soon.