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Colorado Town Gets FCC Notice About FM Signal

“Way High Radio” apparently operated next to town hall; website says it launched out of concern for emergency communications

The tiny north-central Colorado town of Ward has about 150 residents. It also is home to “the longest-running ‘pirate’ radio station in the Rockies” — or so the website of Way High Radio claims.

Now the station has caught the attention of federal officials, who issued a notice of unlicensed operation, saying it must be shut down. What’s unusual is that the notice was addressed to the town government itself. The station apparently operates from a trailer parked next to town hall and has, according to the station’s website, been operated with town consent.

Ward, according to the town’s website, is home to “people who some might describe as recluses or misfits, but who are our community, who do fit in here, and they are strong and quarrelsome, kind and opinionated, artistically gifted and emotionally ornery. They are who they are, nothing more and nothing less. And that’s why we live here.”

The FCC issued the notice of unlicensed operation after agents from its Denver office detected an FM signal and “confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio signals on frequency 90.5 MHz were emanating from a trailer parked next to the Town Hall located on Columbia Street in Ward, Colo.,” the commission wrote in the NUO. “Public records list the Town of Ward as the owner of this property. The commission’s records show that no license was issued for a broadcast station on 90.5 MHz at this location.”

Over the past year or two, in an effort to improve enforcement against pirate operators, the FCC has been calling attention to the potential liability of landlords and other parties in addition to that of broadcasters themselves.

[“In Largest Penalty to Date, FCC Fines Both Pirate Operator and Property Owner” (Sept. 2017)]

Way High Radio, according to its website, has been on the air for most of the past two decades, returning to the air partly as a result of concerns over emergency communications after a local canyon fire in 2010. “We were brought back to life, with the urging of our local FEMA director, to help aid in emergency services and also to expand our desire to connect Ward and the Indian Peaks Community,” the station website site states.

“In December of 2013, we became part of the Colorado Community Radio Network. A network of so called ‘pirate’ radio stations that serve communities in a grassroots way through the sharing of content and a focus on local interests. As far as we know, we are the longest running ‘pirate’ radio station in the Rockies.”

According to the site, “We have been granted permission from the Town of Ward to locate our studio next to the Town Hall and have been included in the town’s Sustainability Plan due to the importance of this project.” It also has a streamed signal.

Radio World has requested comment from the town and station and will report the outcome.