FCC assigns REC's rural NCE petition RM-11846

The Federal Communications Commission released a Public Notice announcing a Petition for Rulemaking from REC Networks and has assigned in RM-11846.

In this Petition for rulemaking, REC is asking for relief for rural communities that currently do not have any radio broadcast stations licensed to them in order to obtain a new lower-powered broadcast station in the upcoming filing window for NCE stations.  

Under the rules being proposed by REC, eligible applications will be in communities outside of U.S. Census Bureau designated urbanized areas, have no other radio broadcast services licensed to it (full-service AM or FM, commercial or non commercial), meet minimum Class A requirements (service contour of 6 km or greater), operate 250 watts or less (maximum 13 km service contour) and operate in the reserved band (88.1~91.9 MHz).  The applicant must make a showing that none of the 20 channels are available but there are channels available if second and third adjacent channel protection is removed. In other words, the channel must not be inside the protected contour of a co- or first- adjacent channel.  At least one facility that is preventing a reserved band channel from being available must place a protected contour over a portion of an urbanized area.  The proposed facility may not place any service contour into an urbanized area.  The proposed facility must also be completely outside of a Neilsen Audio Top 50 market area.

To address second and third adjacent channel interference, REC proposes a reverse version of the Raleigh standard where a de minimus amount of population can be in the area where the undesired to desired (U/D) ratio exceeds 40.  Under REC's proposed guidelines, the population within this "overlap zone" cannot exceed 0.2 percent of the overall population of protected contours of the stations being overlapped and can never exceed 3,000 persons.  Stations would be considered Class A and therefore, would be a primary service.  Overlapped stations may make modifications on a per se basis consistent with the Commission's established Raleigh policy.  Overlapped stations may protest new allotments through an Order to Show Cause process.

Utilizing the current rules, applicants must continue to properly protect full-service stations outside of the reserved band (92.1~107.9), foreign FM stations per the appropriate bilateral agreements and until the July, 2021 analog sunset, full-service channel 6 stations.  

RM-11846 asks the Commission to determine where the public interest of first aural service to smaller communities and the non-destructive "interference" allegedly caused by second and third adjacent channel overlapping stations.  REC hopes the Commission re-examines second and third adjacent channel protections by lower powered facilities and using the expereinces gathered through the various times when the FCC has allowed second and third adjacent channel overlap (Raleigh, LPFM second adjacent prior to 2011, Translator short-spacing LPFM, Subsequent full-service filings creating new contour overlap to second/third adjacent translators, etc.) as well as the advance in design of FM receivers over the past 30 years.  

REC has identified over 2,000 communities that would be able to take advantage of this proposed carve-out in the rules.  These communities are currently shut-out and will allow them to have a station that is "right-sized" for their community.  Additional proposed rules, including a specific localism requirement for these stations are intended to prevent speculation and assure that these stations have local accountability. 

Since this is a primary service, there is no Local Community Radio Act issues that would need to be addressed here.  Based on availability, we expect a minimal impact to existing LPFM stations on 88.1 to 92.3 as a result of this Petition for Rulemaking.  

In some rural areas, LPFMs may see this as an opportunity to upgrade to a higher-powered primary local service.

Comments may be filed in the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System until August 26 (August 24 falls on a Saturday) under proceeding RM-11846.

See our fact sheet at: https://recnet.com/rm-11846-fact-sheet