Despite opponents’ objections, FM station KTWS “The Twins” in Bend, Ore., can upgrade from Class C3 to Class C1 and increase power from 5.2 kW to 50 kW. So says the FCC staff.
The case involved neighbor concerns about RF levels near the tower, local “blanketing” interference and other issues. The ruling offers some insight into how the Media Bureau handles such objections.
The licensee, Combined Communications Inc., applied to modify facilities of KTWS in late 2008, but the application was protested by Andrew Shooks, James Swarm, Deborah Curl and Thomas Daniels, at least some of whom are neighbors of the station.
KTWS operates at 98.3 MHz from a tower in the Awbrey Butte antenna farm (the application includes a frequency move to 98.5). It airs a classic rock format.
The opponents wrote to the commission with concerns about compliance with RF radiation exposure limits. They also questioned whether the station had reasonable assurance of site availability and whether the tower owner had coordinated with tribal and historic preservation officers properly.
Regarding RF exposure, they noted the number of people with access to the site, including employees of the U.S. Forestry Service and Deschutes County, as well as adjacent property owners who have easements and must travel within feet of the guy anchors.
But the FCC said the site is fenced and the tower is posted with warning signs. It said its engineers examined the application and predicted that, even worst-case, the station will not exceed the occupational/controlled exposure limit. And it said the station volunteered to take measurements after construction and add fencing or signs as needed. “We will require Combined to take these steps,” the FCC wrote. The commission staff declined to require a composite modeling study of all radiation sources on and around the tower.
Two of the opponents said that they also experience “blanketing interference” from the station, meaning they can’t receive other signals, and they said the station hasn’t been able to fix it. They worry that the problem will only get worse. The commission said it can’t tell whether the station failed to meet its obligations. It decided not to delay approval but told the station to follow up with one of the neighbors and report back. The commission also reminded KTWS that it must resolve complaints of blanketing interference during its first year at higher power.
The commission brushed off concerns about site availability, saying the opponents had provided no evidence; regardless, the city of Bend subsequently issued approval for the tower in May of this year. And the FCC staff dismissed the claim about tribal and historic sites because the objection paperwork referred to a different tower in the antenna farm.
So KTWS is free to raise power to 50 kW.
Given that RF exposure limits and local interference are common subjects of discussion in power increase cases, stations interested in the specific language can read it here.