FCC taking comments on REC's "Simple 250" LPFM Class of Service
The FCC has announced today by Public Notice that REC's latest 250-watt LPFM service Petition for Rulemaking has been assigned RM-11909.
Dubbed "Simple 250", this proposal was originally presented to the FCC in early 2020 just prior to the decision made in the 2020 Technical Report and Order (MB Docket 19-193), that "tentatively rejected" REC's previous Petitions for Rulemaking for a 250 watt LPFM service (RM-11749 and RM-11810).
In rejecting the previous proposals, the FCC stated that the LP-250 proposal was "too complex" and would completely change the simplicity of LPFM. Compared to other broadcast services, the application process and rules for LPFM are simpler and much more straight forward. REC argued at the time, that the LPFM service was "mature" and that a majority of LPFM applicants in the 2013 Filing Window used "hired help" to complete their applications. The FCC also had some concerns that the previous REC's proposals would not pass the muster of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, despite extensive arguments made by REC that it was compliant with the law.
In "Simple 250", REC proposes to add LP-250 as a second class of service that can be used mainly as an upgrade to already authorized LP-100 stations. LP-250 simply takes the existing rules and adds a second set of distance separation tables with longer minimum distances in order to get to the higher class of service. In previous LP-250 proposals by both REC and the FCC, LP-250 was achieved by using most of the same minimum distances that LP-100 currently uses but reduces size of the 20 kilometer "buffer zone" that is added to all required distances to full-service FM stations. This was a major point of contention at the FCC in the Report and Order in MB Docket 19-193. "Simple 250" maintains the 20 kilometer buffer zone and instead increases the required distance separation by an average of 5 kilometers for co-channel and about 3 kilometers for first-adjacent channels. "Simple 250" does not include any of the previous proposals to give the option to use contour protection in lieu of distance separation to protect FM translators, even though distance separation was never mandated for LPFMs protecting FM translator stations.
While the original FCC and REC LP-250 proposals would have allowed many opportunities for urban LPFM stations that were far enough from other LPFM and FM translator stations, "Simple 250" will mainly benefit LPFM stations in rural and other less spectrum-crowded areas. REC cited at the time that a very considerable number of LPFM stations would still be able to upgrade either on their current channel or with a change to an alternate channel and that there were still many opportunities. "Simple 250" is premised on the fact that in many rural areas, that the definition of "hyperlocal" expands well past the current 3.5 mile LPFM service area.
"Simple 250" will provide the ability for qualified stations to upgrade to 250 watts Effective Radiated Power at 30 meters Height Above Average Terrain with an effective (60 dBu) service contour of 7.1 kilometers (4.4 miles).
REC will release more information about this Petition for Rulemaking in the days ahead and we will be updating our LP-250 information site with updated channel reports for existing LPFM stations to see if they can upgrade. We also plan to provide LP-250 upgrade information in REC's myLPFM channel search tool.
It is important to remember that with this new proceeding now in progress, it will not cause any delay on a future LPFM filing window, which we still predict will take place sometime in 2022.
Comments are being taken in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System by selecting proceeding RM-11909.
You may read the text of this Petition for Rulemaking here.