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FCC Says No to Cochise

Potential overlap with Mexican spectrum derails modification request

A licensee unhappy about its inability to change power levels has seen its request denied by the Federal Communications Commission — and international relations are part of the reason.

Cochise Broadcasting sought review of a July 2017 decision in which the Media Bureau upheld the dismissal of a minor modification application filed for station KTBX(FM) in Tubac, Ariz. After consulting with the FCC International Bureau, the Media Bureau found that the application specifically violated terms of a 1992 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that relates to FM service in the 88–108 MHz band.

Specifically, bureau staff dismissed Cochise’s modification application because the proposal would cause overlap between the station’s proposed interfering signal contour and the 65-kilometer protected contour of the Channel 263B allotment at Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico. (Cochise had proposed to change several items, including the station’s transmitter location, effective radiated power and antenna height.)

The bureau found that the modification application would create areas of interference within the borders of Mexico. It also declined to reach out to the Mexican government about the request.

While Cochise acknowledged that the proposed KTBX contour would overlap the protected contour of Channel 236B, it argued that the application should have been referred to Mexico for concurrence rather than dismissed by the Audio Division.

Cochise said the bureau treated the modification application differently than other, similarly-situated applicants and contended that the bureau failed to provide an adequate rationale for “departing from the treatment which it has accorded previous applicants over a number of years.” Cochise said the bureau failed to explain the rationale for making a distinction between overlap caused within the U.S. and overlap caused within the borders of Mexico.

But the FCC stood firm. The so-called USA-Mexico Agreementstates that proposed modifications to the plan of allotments and assignments “shall only be accepted when its interfering contour does not overlap the protected contours of existing allotments and assignments of the other country.”

The bureau also rejected Cochise’s argument that the dismissal of its application is inconsistent with prior commission policies. It noted that all examples involved an application where interference occurred within — not outside of — the United States. “[T]he Audio Division has consistently declined to request Mexican concurrence for applications that would cause any overlap within Mexican territory,” the FCC said.

As a result, the commission outright denied Cochise’s Application for Review.