So when will the next LPFM window be?
Every so often, we continue to get the question, "so when is the next LPFM filing window?". Honestly, we do not know. All most can do is speculate. Currently, the FCC is busy with other actions. While construction permits grants in the Great Translator Invasion (GTI) were frozen for a period of time, the FCC is continuing to work assignments of permits. These assignments are coming from Radio Assist/Edgewater and others.
With the limited resources for handling applications at the FCC, there are several reasons why we have not seen another FCC filing window for LPFM. Auction 62 for example created 163 new grantable construction permits. Those permits are currently being processed right now. We also have an AM broadcast band auction that has been in limbo for the past two years as parties try to work out issues. On the video side, there was an LPTV auction and another one on the way as well as the applications filed in the digital channel elections. As you can see, FCC resources are very taxed right now. Between the resource issues and political pressure from the Bush-backing NAB, the focus is not on LPFM. The FCC could also be doing a wait and see with Congress on the various community broadcasting leglislation going through now. The FCC would need to be cautious to not go through the expense of opening a window just to find out that the new legislation is signed into law. In some ways, the March 2005 FNPRM for MM Docket 99-25 which proposed changes to the LPFM service could also be holding up the window.
Is the delay in resolving applications in the GTI impacting a future LPFM window?
I don't think it is. Actually, the FCC did LPFM an interesting favor. The Auction #83 window, which we later referred to as the GTI window was open between March 10 through March 14, 2003 and then was extended to March 17. Some in LPFM may remember March 17, 2003, the day we referred to as the "St. Patty's Massacre", the day that the "deadlocked" LPFM applications that did not meet the new third-adjacent channel restrictions and could not be moved to other channels and/or locations in the past remedial filing window were dismissed. Translators filed in the GTI were required to protect those LPFM stations at the LPFM's full facilities. I think that after the FCC resumes granting GTI applications, finishes out all of the singletons, the non-commercial weeding out process will take place in the MX groups then once that is done, the auction can take place. If an LPFM window was opened right now, LPFM stations would be required to protect GTI applicants including those who have only filed short form applications. We note that the short form applications are technically not "accepted for filing" and many are very questionable (such as 250 watts on a mountaintop). Right now, LPFM would be required to protect these types of translator applications at the highest tier (DC or D8 in our system). Even with that, there are still many opportunities for LPFM in the rural areas.
What impact would a possible NCE-FM window have on a future LPFM window?
Very little to none at all. Mainly because the channels in the NCE window are between 88-92 MHz. These channels are pretty much excluded from LPFM because of overprotection given to full power FM stations in this band as well as the obscene overprotection given to LPTV stations on Channel 6 by LPFM stations. The only major impacts to LPFM from this auction will be the availability of 92.1, 92.3 and 92.5 as well as the channels 10.6 and 10.8 MHz up from a non-commercial frequency (the IF channels).
What about the latest and future FM auction windows?
The one nice thing about the full power service is the Table of Allotments. Through allotment proceedings, you know in advance which channels are going to be used. Also once the filing is made and the FCC assigns a rulemaking number, that blocks the frequency in our database and treats it like the class proposed at the reference coordinates in the petition. The FCC still has a freeze in effect for new "drop-in" amendments to the table of allotments.
Could the LPAM petition be causing this delay?
I seriously doubt it. The LPAM petition is currently at the RM and the FCC has not even considered it for potential rulemaking. Some petitions stay on the backburner and eventually fade away.
While the FCC has mandatory electronic filing for many functions, these functions require human interaction to review applications. Could you imagine filing a minor change application and within 5 minutes getting it changed. Because we have a public notice requirement and a chance to challenge the application, this keeps staffers very busy.
Please be patient, I think they will get there soon. For now, this is a time to prepare. If you are a new organization set up for strictly broadcasting, start your paperwork with the state right now. Local community presence is used as a tiebreaker and the longer you have been in the community (as evidenced by corporation papers), the better your changes. For now, good luck.