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FCC Clears Way For New FM Channel in South Florida

Group made case for first local radio service in small community

A new Report and Order from the FCC amends the FM Table of Allotments to allow for a new FM channel in a small Florida community. 

Spottswood Partners II, Ltd. petitioned the commission earlier this year asking for a rulemaking proposing the allotment of Channel 265C3 in Big Coppitt Key, Fla., which is an unincorporated community in Monroe County. Big Coppitt Key is in the Florida Keys and just east of Key West.

The community is growing, according to the 2020 census, which listed Big Coppitt Key as a census designated place (CDP) with a population of 2,869. That’s an increase of about 17% in population since the 2010 census.

That CDP designation is significant, according to the FCC, since it raises the presumption that an area is a “community” for allotment purposes. However, that presumption needs to be supported by evidence that a community qualifies as such for allotment purposes.

Therefore, the FCC requested Spottswood Partners submit additional information supporting its argument and demonstrating that Big Coppitt Key is indeed a community.

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The petitioner in its comments stated “that Big Coppitt Key is home to a number of establishments which incorporate the community name, such as Big Coppitt Key Mart, Big Coppitt Gun Club and Big Coppitt First Baptist Church.”

Spottswood Partners also claims that Big Coppitt Key has multiple religious establishments, including Big Coppitt First Baptist Church, La Premiere Eglise Evangelique, Keys Presbyterian Church and New Life Tabernacle.

The group even went so far as to mention the local cemetery in its comments to the FCC: “Moreover, Southern Keys Cemetery, located in Big Coppitt Key, provides a peaceful resting place for deceased residents where their families and loved ones can visit from dawn to dusk.”  

The FCC admits that the test for determining whether a locality is a community for allotment purposes is not a stringent one. “This requirement is generally satisfied if the proposed community is either incorporated or listed in the U.S. Census, but incorporation is not a prerequisite to community status,” the FCC says.  

Spottswood Partners told the FCC in its comments that, if the channel is allotted, it will apply for the channel in any FM auction for the Big Coppitt Key allotment, and it will prosecute its application and promptly construct the facilities in the event the Commission grants its application.

In reply comments to the FCC, the group reaffirmed that Big Coppitt Key is a community for allotment purposes and confirmed again it intends to apply for the channel once allotted.

No other comments or reply comments from other parties were filed, according to the FCC.  

The FCC’s report and order concluded: “We determine that the public interest would be served by allotting a first local service at Big Coppitt Key, Fla.”

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An FCC staff engineering analysis indicates that Channel 265C3 can be allotted to Big Coppitt Key consistent with the minimum distance separation requirements of the commission’s rules, with a site restriction of 14.5 km (9.0 miles) northeast of the community, the FCC says.

The commission issued the reference coordinates of 24-39-34 NL and 81-32-17 WL for the proposed FM channel. 

However, the window period for filing applications for Channel 265C3 at Big Coppitt Key “will not be opened just yet,” according to the FCC. Instead, it says the issue of opening this allotment for filing will be addressed by the commission in a subsequent order.