Posts Categorised: FCC

The advocacy group called the FCC’s earlier decision arbitrary, capricious and contrary to LCRA

WASHINGTON — While the industry digests the 998 objections that Prometheus and two other advocacy groups filed with the FCC on May 17, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a firm “no” in a separate Prometheus filing — one that may be of interest to low-power FM stations, AM operators, LCRA supporters, and those watching for a future tug of war between AM radio stations and LPFMers.

Last year the Prometheus Radio Project filed a series of petitions with the FCC saying the commission’s 2017 formal order on the siting of cross-service translators for AM stations was arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the goals of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, and insensitive to the needs of community-oriented noncommercial educational LPFM providers.

The issue surrounds the commission’s decision not to adopt a specifically defined distance limit on the siting of cross-service translators for AM stations with a 2 mV/m contour exceeding 25 miles.

As part of its AM revitalization efforts, the FCC amended a rule in February 2017 surrounding the siting of an FM translator that is rebroadcasting an AM station. The draft of this Second Report and Order differed from earlier documents in that it did not include any specific distance limits on the siting of translators.

This was done intentionally, the FCC said, to give AM stations flexibility in using a cross-service translator to serve its core market — assuming that it still did not extend its signal beyond the station’s core service area.

Prior to the circulation of this Second R&O draft, the rules were quite specific: a cross-service FM translator had to be located such that its 60 dBμ contour was contained within the lesser of either the AM station’s daytime 2 mV/m contour, or within a 25-mile radius centered at the AM station’s transmitter site.

As the FCC put it: “refraining from adopting a limit would be consistent with the objective, articulated in the [AM Revitalization Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], to provide flexibility to an AM station using a cross- service translator.”

Prometheus objected, however. It argued that without the proposed 40-mile limit, expanded siting options for cross-service FM translators would lead to an increase in the short-spacing of low-power FM stations from multiple directions, and would significantly restrict incumbent LPFM stations’ ability to relocate in the event of lost transmitter sites.

The commission dismissed Prometheus’ objections at the time and went ahead and approved the Second R&O without any mention of the 40-mile limit. The commission said Prometheus neglected to quantify the number of LPFM stations that would be affected and noted that the new rules still made space for mandated minimum spacing and contour overlap protections.

Prometheus responded again with a stay petition and reconsideration petition and demanded a freeze on the processing of related applications.

The FCC again disagreed. “Despite Prometheus’s claims, the commission did not fail to account for any adverse impact that the order will have on LPFM stations,” the FCC said. “Rather, the commission found that the public interest benefits of providing greater flexibility for AM stations to locate cross-service translators, even beyond the 40-mile limit, were significant and that nothing in the record, including Prometheus’s February Ex Parte, demonstrated harm to LPFM stations that would outweigh these benefits.”

Nor does the commission agree with Prometheus’ assessment that it violated the LCRA by not adopting a set distance limit on siting of cross-service translators.

“[The order] addresses community needs by allowing improved primary service by AM broadcasters” such that the requirements of Section 5 of the LCRA have been met, the FCC said.

The commission rejected Prometheus in another way: its assessment that the FCC favored expansion of commercial stations, “many of which are controlled by large national ownership groups at the expense of noncommercial local LPFM,” Prometheus told the FCC.

Elimination of the set distance limit does not favor expansion of commercial stations at the expense of noncommercial stations, the FCC said. “The increased flexibility in siting of cross-service translators will benefit both commercial and noncommercial AM stations … [and] the potential for harm to noncommercial LPFM stations resulting from this increased flexibility is remote.”

As a result, the commission rejected Prometheus’s request for reconsideration and dismissed its stay petition as moot.

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Reps from the Center for International Media Action, Common Frequency and the Prometheus Radio Project believe the FCC has had its eye off the ball since 2014

WASHINGTON — The FM spectrum wars seem to be heating up.

Three organizations that support low-power FM stations in the United States have filed objections to 998 applications by full-power stations that want to extend coverage via FM translators.

Representatives from the Center for International Media Action, Common Frequency and the Prometheus Radio Project believe the FCC has had its eye off the ball since 2014 as it has handled translator applications.

This is the latest development in a years-long tug of war over U.S. FM spectrum management that often finds LPFM advocates and translator licensees pitted against one another a situation and that has gotten worse first as the LPFM service expanded and then as FCC policies encouraged further proliferation of FM translators for full-power stations including AMs.

The groups argue that after the Local Community Radio Act expanding the LPFM service was signed into law in 2011, Congress ordered the FCC to ensure that urban areas had opportunities for LPFM and translator applications and that the two types of radio facility be treated equally.

While the FCC previously had carefully modified translator processing procedures so that applicants could show that they were honoring the LCRA, argued Paul Bame of the Prometheus Radio Project in a letter on its website , “since 2014, something switched and they have allowed a giant spectrum grab by repeaters without regard to future LPFM opportunities.

“The congressional mandate is still in force, but seems to have been forgotten by the FCC,” he wrote.

According to the three groups, the FCC is supposed to serve as a referee between the interests of stations that wanted to extend their coverage with “repeaters” and new LPFMs looking to get a start in broadcasting.

“And from 2011 to 2013, they got it right,” the groups wrote. “Unfortunately, the referee has stepped off of the field, and incumbent owners are grabbing up everything they can, hoping no one will remember Congress’ mandate.”

They assert that the LCRA had determined that translator and LPFM services “remain equal in status” and “secondary to existing and modified full-service FM stations,” and thus, the groups argued, the FCC cannot enforce rules that give one service preference in relation to signal engineering.

Said Todd Urick with Common Frequency: “The rule of law still applies, and the FCC is bound by the orders that Congress gave it. Our objection to these 998 applications is a reminder that there was no sunset on compliance with this law in 2014 — it is still on the books and must be obeyed.”

Specifically, the groups said the FCC has informally sanctioned the practice of allowing translators to short-space existing LPFM facilities — i.e., allowing translator proposals to be spaced shorter than what LPFM services are allowed to propose to translators — without legally testing the issue. “This, by definition, affords a higher status to translators,” the groups said, a practice they say violates the LCRA.

In the case of a short-spacing, the groups said, a translator applicant “is free to propose endless minor changes and modification around the LPFM in perpetuity, but the LPFM is locked into its coordinate position from moving any closer to the translator.”

“The bias preemptively deems service preference to the translator party, with the LPFM party saddled with one-way mutual exclusivity,” the groups said.

Common Frequency, Prometheus and CIM are calling for all the applicants they list in their filing to confirm that their engineering requests meet the demands of the LCRA Section 5. They should demonstrate this prior to licensing, the group said, or be subject to dismissal or rescindment.

A list of the applicants are listed in in Appendix A of the group’s filing, and include applicants from all over the contiguous United States as well as Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

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Educational Broadcast Service spectrum to be used for LTE and 5G

The FCC voted unanimously this month to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that contemplates ways to put mostly “fallow” 2.5 GHz spectrum to use.

The 2496–2690 MHz band constitutes “the single largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz and is prime for next-generation mobile operations,” according to .

Significant portions of the Educational Broadband Service spectrum in this band currently are unused across nearly half of the United States, mostly in rural areas. The commission has limited access to the spectrum since 1995, and current licensees are subject to outdated regulations, according to the FCC.

Efforts have been underway for more than a year to get the FCC to issue an NPRM so that the EBS portion of the 2.5 GHz spectrum could be put to better use, according to the article. In 2014, the Wireless Communications Association, the National EBS Association and the Catholic Television Network got together and submitted a proposal on how to license the spectrum.

Sprint holds licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum assets, and said that adoption of new licensing opportunities for EBS licensees will further strengthen its existing 4G LTE and future 5G deployments.

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Urges commercial stations to register to “make the FCC aware of usage”

Add Westwood One to the list of major radio organizations urging stations to register their C Band downlinks. It says failing to do so could put all of a station’s satellite programming at risk.

It also noted that the registration process does require a $435 filing fee, but that the normal additional requirement for a frequency coordination study has been waived, saving considerable expense.

The big audio network issued a statement calling on major commercial broadcast radio stations to register existing downlinks with the FCC before the commission evaluates the 3.7-4.2 GHz C Band for adding mobile broadband data services. “These potential additional services could create insurmountable interference to programming stations receive by satellite,” Westwood One wrote.

A current window gives users the chance to register by July 18. Westwood One says the FCC believes that if you do not register your downlink during this window, you will not need interference protection in future.

“In our history, we have never had to license and/or register C Band downlinks,’ stated SVP Technology and Operations Eric Wiler in the announcement.

“Yet with the extensive use of mobile devices, Wifi and other data services, there is a constant need for radio spectrum and the government is considering all possible options. All C Band Radio, Television and Data services on every satellite are at risk. Registration is key to helping the FCC appreciate the universe of existing downlinks and potential outcomes of expansion. Westwood One has been working with other networks and satellite vendors to attempt to resolve this situation.”

Form 312 is available at . Some stations might use a consultant to help. Westwood One also set up its own help email to answer questions at

Westwood One is owned by Cumulus Media.

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Expire June 11, barring further developments like action in Congress

U.S. “net neutrality” rules will expire on June 11, the Federal Communications Commission said last week.

In December the FCC repealed the open-internet rules that had been set in 2015, barring providers from blocking or slowing access to content or charging consumers more for certain content.

“The prior rules were intended to ensure a free and open internet, give consumers equal access to web content and bar broadband service providers from favoring their own material or others,” Reuters reported.

“The revised rules were a win for internet service providers, whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order, but are opposed by internet firms like Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc.”

The new rules require internet providers to tell consumers whether they will block or slow content or offer paid “fast lanes.” Comcast, Verizon and AT&T  have all pledged to not block or discriminate against legal content after the rules expire. Some internet providers have said they could eventually offer paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization, for some future internet traffic.

A group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued to try to block the new rules from taking effect, and the U.S. Senate could vote to reject the December repeal. Acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said, “The repeal of net neutrality would allow internet service providers to put their profits before the consumers they serve and control what we see, do, and say online,” as quoted in the same article. A spokeswoman for Underwood said the state attorneys general have not sought a stay of the FCC order yet.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has led the move to change the rules. Even if the Senate were to block this change, that effort would not likely survive the more heavily Republican House of Representatives or a presidential veto.

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U.S. radio industry technical leaders are emphasizing the importance of registering your downlinks by mid-July

U.S. radio industry technical leaders are emphasizing the importance of registering your downlinks by mid-July.

We’re reported recently about reminders from organizations like NPR and the Society of Broadcast Engineers. In this week’s Monday Morning Coffee Technical Notes , Larry Wilkins of the Alabama Broadcasters Association expands on the point.

He reminds readers that the FCC will be evaluating the C Band (3.7–4.2 GHz) for possibly repurposing for wireless broadband use. The band is used by many broadcasters for satellite distribution of programming.

[Read more about the history of this topic. “Mid-Band Spectrum Talk Worries Broadcasters,” Jan. 2018]

He stresses: “It is critical that you register your downlink so the FCC is aware of it during this 90-day window or you risk losing ALL of your satellite programming. The 90-day window closes on July 18, 2018.”

Wilkins adds, “Stations are also encouraged to contact your FCC attorney and let him or her know where you stand on the issue.”

C Band downlink stations need to be registered no later than July 18, according to Wilkins. There is a $435 fee, though NCE stations can get that waived.

He also shares a link to useful specific directions from space providers SES and Linkup Satellite. Read his post.

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Current process is “nasty, brutish and long,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai says

WASHINGTON — A new rulemaking proposed by the Federal Communications Commission would help to streamline and modify FM translator interference complaint and remediation procedures.

At its Open Meeting on May 10, the commission released a proposal that would provide greater certainty to full-power stations regarding complaint requirements, limit contentious factual disputes, and ensure prompt and consistent relief from actual translator interference, the FCC said in a release .

“Today the chair brings forth an appropriate solution with more effective process for handling legitimate complaints,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, referencing the fact that the of licensed FM translators has increased from 1,850 in 1990 to more than 7,500 in 2017 — with more to come. “[I] hope to hear from stakeholders on whether or not this will adequately address the rise in interference concerns due to the successful [AM Revitalization] proceeding.”

Added Chairman Ajit Pai: “The current process for resolving such interference complaints can be nasty, brutish and long. That’s why we aim to streamline and expedite it,” he said. “These measures would provide more certainty to translator stations and full-service FM stations alike. And in many cases, they would eliminate the need for further remediation measures, resolving interference complaints more quickly.

The notice proposes that translators be given greater flexibility to move to another available frequency in the case of interference and that the rules be clarified and standardized when it comes to complaint requirements. The notice also suggests that proposed technical criteria should be used to assess actual and predicted interference, and that an outer distance limit should be created beyond which interference complaints would not be actionable.

In response to the notice, the National Association of Broadcasters said it is grateful the FCC is considering new policies. 

“[These] will extend local radio service through the use of translators while protecting the existing service of FM broadcasters,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.Comments can be left at the FCC ECFS database using Media Bureau docket number 18-119.

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This isn’t the first time Terry Keith Hammond of Alabama allegedly broke the law

JASPER, Ala. — File one this under “reasons why it’s good to have the engineer do transmitter repairs on site.”

WQJJ(LP) Manager Terry Keith Hammond has been arrested and charged with second-degree felony theft of property, Jennifer Cohron reports for the Jasper, Ala. Daily Mountain Eagle newspaper.

The arrest occurred Saturday, May 5, in Clarke County. He is currently held in Walker County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond because he is considered a flight risk, according to the article.

In his latest radio-related crime, Hammond allegedly represented himself as a broadcast engineer working for Broadcast Technical Services and was hired to repair an AM transmitter by a client in Maryland. Once Hammond received the transmitter, he demanded the owner wire $1,150 to a personal bank account routing number and account number in Jasper before he could complete the repair. The initial repair estimate was not cited in the article.

This aroused the client’s suspicions, and Google revealed Hammond’s prior arrests, as well as allegations of fraud related to broadcasting and uncompleted work filing applications on behalf of LPFM stations .

When the owner refused to pay, Hammond said he “seized it under mechanic’s lien laws” and posted the unit for sale on Facebook, according to Cohron’s article.

Hammond also operates several Facebook pages, including Walker County Area News — which he used to get in a spat with the local sheriff’s office investingating the transmitter theft regarding attempts to arrest him.

His rap sheet includes prior arrests in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Nevada, as well as outstanding warrants for failure to appear and for resisting arrest.

In 2002, Hammond acquired Shamrock, Texas, station KBKH(FM) from Turbo Radio Limited Partnership, but lost his FCC license after failing to report a felony coviction in his license renewal application and refusing to cooperate with FCC investigators, according to FCC documents. The felony was “for altering checks received by” KBKH and instead depositing them into a personal account.

In 2009, Hammond’s application for a new station in Hazard, Ky., was dismissed .

According to , Hammond also has a record as a pirate; he “allegedly violated FCC rules by engaging in multiple instances of unauthorized operation of unlicensed radio stations in California, Louisiana, and Texas.”

[Read about the FCC’s recent efforts to combat unlicensed operators.]

In 2016, Hammond’s wife Bessie Price Hammond (on behalf of North Alabama Public Service Broadcasters) transferred control of WQJJ(LP) at 101.9 MHZ to Teri Danielle Hammond, according to a public notice.

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Almost all of the information about radio and TV stations is now available online

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has unanimously voted to propose eliminating rules requiring the posting of broadcast licenses, as well as ownership and contact information, in specific physical locations.

That is because the rules date back most of a hundred years — they were adopted in 1930 — and almost all the info is now available online.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he had seen such information literally taped to the walls on a recent visit to broadcast facilities at One World Trade Center in New York and had the picture to prove it.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai pointed out that no rationale was ever laid out for these posting rules in the first place.

The chairman also said the FCC had to take a fine tooth comb on the rulebook to find all the related rules and thanked the staff for wielding those combs.

It is the 10th dereg item in the chairman’s regulatory modernization efforts, not to be confused with major deregulatory weed-whacking like net neutrality and broadcast ownership reg rollbacks. 

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Office of Engineering and Tech and International and Wireless Telecomms Bureaus asked for comments on allowing wireless services to share the band for 5G

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether C Band spectrum — used by National Public Radio and others — should potentially be opened up for sharing with wireless operators.

On May 1, the Office of Engineering and Technology and the International and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus asked for comments on the feasibility of allowing wireless services to use or share parts of the 3.7–4.2 GHz spectrum band for 5G use.

The FCC is asking for direction on how it should assess the possible impacts of sharing with those who are already operating in this band. The agency is also asking for suggestions on how this sharing might be accomplished without causing harmful interference and what other considerations the commission should take into account.

The deadline for those comments is May 31, with reply comments due June 15.

In a filing submitted earlier this week , National Public Radio expressed concerns about any such proposal. The public radio satellite system depends on C Band for distribution of programming to its 1,278 public radio stations, said Adam Shoemaker, counsel for NPR, in the filing.

At a face-to-face meeting between NPR staff members and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly in April, representatives from NPR touched on the current lack of alternatives to satellite for reliable public radio program distribution to public radio stations across the country.

Calling such a move “disruptive” and “not feasible,” NPR representatives explained that the nation’s noncommercial, nonprofit public radio system cannot afford alternative means of program distribution — such as terrestrial/fiber networks — which are significantly more expensive than satellite distribution. “[T]here are rural and remote areas of the country where fiber does not reach and there are no alternatives to satellite distribution, regardless of cost,” the filing said.

NPR said there are “no proven interference protections available” for those currently operating in that band.

During its discussions, NPR provided a series of information sheets to the commissioner that detailed how the public radio satellite system serves as an indispensable link to the American public.

Those interested in submitting comments on the FCC can do so through the FCC ECFS database using Docket 18-122.

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