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New LPFMs to Have Interference Remediation Procedures

Commission to accept ‘informal evidence of interference’

There are a couple of interesting items in the LPFM language recently passed by Congress that merit a closer look.

The interference remediation procedures are interesting. For LPFMs licensed at locations that do not satisfy third-adjacent channel spacing requirements under Section 73.807 of the commission’s rules (47 CFR 73.807), the FCC must provide the same interference protections that FM translators and boosters are required to provide as set forth in Section 74.1203.

Up to a year after a new LPFM is built on a third-adjacent channel, that LPFM must air periodic announcements that alert listeners that interference that they may be experiencing could be the result of that LPFM’s operation. How often those must air was not specified and is something the commission is going to have to figure out as it changes its LPFM rules. The station must instruct affected listeners to contact the station to report any interference.

Congress directed the agency to require all new LPFMs on third-adjacent channels to tell the FCC “and all affected stations on third-adjacent channels” of an interference complaint by electronic communication within 48 hours, and to cooperate in addressing the interference within the victim station’s protected contour.

These LPFMs will be “encouraged to address all other interference complaints,” including those to the FCC based on interference to full-service FMs, FM translators and boosters by the transmitter site of an LPFM on a third-adjacent channel “at any distance” from the full-service FM, FM translator or booster.

In turn, the FCC is directed to notify the LPFM licensee of interference within seven calendar days after it receives a complaint from a listener or another station.

Regarding remediation, the text reads: “To the extent possible, the Federal Communications Commission shall grant low-power FM stations on third-adjacent channels the technical flexibility to remediate interference through the co-location of the transmission facilities of the low-power FM station and any stations on third-adjacent channels.”

The FCC will accept “informal evidence of interference” including any engineering analysis that an affected station may commission and accept complaints based on interference to a full-service FM, FM translator or booster. The definition of “informal evidence” will be interesting because it sounds as if some of this is open to interpretation.

The commission will accept complaints of interference to mobile reception as well.

And to wrap up the interference tidbits, there’s a special protection for full-service FMs licensed in “significantly populated” states with more than 3 million population and a density greater than 1,000 people per one square mile land area. For those areas, the agency will require all LPFMs licensed after the bill is enacted and located on third-adjacent, second-adjacent, first-adjacent or co-channels to full-service FMs to follow the same interference remediation requirements — without regard to whether the complaints occur within or outside of the protected contour of victim stations — under the same interference complaint and remediation procedures that FM translators and boosters are required to provide to full-service FMs under Section 74.1203.

Finally, the FCC will conduct an economic study on the impact that LPFMs will have on full-service commercial FMs and submit a report to Congress no later than a year after the changes are enacted.

So the commission has a little work to do before it opens a new application window for the new LPFMs.