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Advocates Press FCC on Lower-Watt LPFMs

Let The Cities In asks DOJ for help

A low-power FM citizen’s advocacy group that wants the FCC to license lower-watt stations has not given up. They’ve also asked the DOJ for help.

Let The Cities In petitioned the commission earlier this year, asking the agency to reconsider licensing LPFMs smaller than 100 watts. The group believes licensing 1- to 10-watt stations, or at least below 50 watts, may be the only way to get more LPFMs licensed in some major cities, including New York, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

LTCI’s attorney is Don Schellhardt and its technology advisor is Nickolaus Leggett. The two low-power advocates say they were among the first people to propose LPFM service to the FCC in 1997.

Readers may recall that when the agency finalized its LPFM rules last fall, the FCC decided to drop the 10-watt idea at the same time. The FCC said it didn’t believe stations smaller than 100 watts would be economically viable and could possibly cause interference with both new LPFM and full-power stations.

LTCI’s petition challenges those points, claiming that most LPFM advocacy groups have supported LP10s “at least in some areas,” and that the commission has already licensed 10-watt translator stations in urban areas, apparently without causing problems.

The group asked the FCC to reconsider its LP100-only decision in favor of eliminating the LP10s, which LTCI claims has “huge exclusionary results.” LTCI asserts that excluding “numerous urban citizens” from LPFM coverage will violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. “Basically, this is a Constitutional mandate that governmental bodies may not ‘arbitrarily,’ that is, without good reason, treat groups and/or individuals in a way which materially favors some over others,” Schellhardt explained to RW.

If the commission does not reconsider, they want the DOJ to intervene and seek a court order to require the changes on constitutional grounds.

The group seeks a second filing window for LP10s, “at least in targeted areas,” following completion of the LP100 filing window slated to open Oct. 15. “There are now only six weeks to go before the October filing window begins, but potential LP10 applicants still cannot prepare because they still don’t know whether LP10s will be authorized or not,” according to LTCI.

The group has also asked the DOJ to oppose the FCC’s practice of allowing translators to be licensed at power levels lower than LPFM power levels, stating that this gives translators “monopoly access to all of the precious urban frequencies below 50 watts.” There’s been no response from either regulator so far, according to LTCI.