REC Open Letter to Developers: Census Data for 2021 NCE Filing Window

This open letter is for individuals and companies that are in the business of developing software applications used in the processing of FM broadcast construction permit applications.

In a previous proceeding, MB Docket 20-343 (Proposed Application Limit for NCE-FM New Station Applications in the Upcoming 2021 Filing Window), REC Networks filed comments (paragraphs 11~14) expressing concern regarding the availability of 2020 US Census Block level data in time for the start of a filing freeze preceding the noncommercial educational (NCE) FM Filing Window, scheduled for November 2~9, 2021.  

Original construction permit applications for full-service NCE facilities use Census Block level data in two places.  First, it is used in the overall point system in order for an applicant to earn one or two points for a technically superior application.  Second, it is used to get population counts in areas where the proposed station will provide a first or second full-service educational service (between 88.1~91.9 MHz) in order to claim priority in the event of mutual exclusivity pursuant to Section 307(b) of the Communications Act.

The last NCE filing window of this nature was conducted in 2007, well after the US Census Bureau released the 2000 decennial Census Block data.  

As of June 21, 2021, the US Census Bureau has not released any 2020 Census data products that have granularity at the block level. 

On May 31, 2021, REC sent an inquiry to the US Census Bureau to get information on the release of Summary File 1 or the Census product that they planned to replace it.  We expressed our specific need (block level data that shows centroid coordinates, population and land area).

On (Sunday) June 20, 2021, REC received a reply from a Program Manager at the US Census Bureau to advise that while there is no date yet for the Summary File 1 replacement product, the Census Bureau plans to release "2020 Census P.L. 94-171 (Redistricting data) Summary File -- geoheader and total pop from data segment 1" on or around August 16, 2021.

The technical information about that data file can be found here:

Per my review of the technical information, it appears that the main data elements that we will need to integrate 2020 Census Block data should be available  in Summary Level 155.  

While the actual data files have not been released, this appears that it will be delivered in a flat file format similar to the 2010 data.

REC has notified the Media Bureau, Audio Division at the FCC of this recent interaction with the US Census Bureau. 

REC's intention is to share known information like this with the entire development community to assure that all broadcast applications filed in the upcoming NCE window will be handled fairly and each applicant has the same opportunity to have the most successful application in the window, no matter which software they choose to use.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Michelle Bradley, CBT
REC Networks
202 621-2355