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Mass. Town Will Use FM Radio for Public Safety

City plans LPFM after recent ice storms and other emergencies

Paul McLane is editor in chief.

If you aren’t sure how valuable radio can be to a local community, consider what the town of Acton, Mass., northwest of Boston, wrote to the Federal Communications Commission:

“The town is seeking an LPFM license in order to fill a need for effective public safety communication with residents, especially during emergencies,” it told the FCC. It stated that over several years, Acton has suffered from severe ice storms and other disasters “which rendered cellular towers inoperable and left residents without any utility access in some cases for more than 2 weeks.”

It said the community needs a way to communicate “that is not dependent on public utilities which can be damaged during an emergency.”

This language is sure to resonate with others in broadcasting who have long emphasized radio’s reliability even when — especially when — other forms of communication infrastructure fail. Here’s yet more evidence, in case anyone needed it.

When not used for public safety, the Acton radio station — with two full-time employees — would be used for “municipal outreach” and civic events, an Independence day concert, fireworks, government updates and other programming.

It’s fascinating to dig through the many applications received by the FCC for new low-power FM radio stations such as this one. I had to smile at this line toward the end of Acton’s application: “With respect to Section IV, Question 1, the Town of Acton was incorporated as a town on July 3, 1735. The FCC’S CDBS form will not permit the entry of a date earlier than January 1, 1950. However, for purposes of the involuntary time-share information in Section IV, the applicant qualified as ‘local’ under section 73.853(B) as of July 3, 1735.”

In other words, we were local before there was a United States, much less an FCC.

Love that institutional memory.

By the way, the town of Acton got its construction permit, at 94.9 MHz.