FCC Authorizes New LPFM Service On January 20, 2000, the FCC adopted rules creating a new, low power FM radio (LPFM) service. The Report and Order was released on January 27 and was published in the Federal Register on February 15. The rules will become effective on April 17, 2000. At about that time, in about mid-April, the Commission will issue a Public Notice announcing the first 5-day application period 30 days hence. Applications from Alaska, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah will be accepted at that time. Four additional filing windows will open in approximately three-month intervals. The order in which each state will be considered is available from a News Release of March 27, 2000. The new LPFM service will consist of two classes of LPFM radio stations with maximum power levels of 10 watts and 100 watts. The 10 watt stations would reach an area with a radius of between one and two miles, the 100 watt stations would reach an area with a radius of approximately three and a half miles. 100- watt stations will be authorized first. These LPFM stations would operate throughout the FM band. The stations will be geographically separated from existing stations on the same (co-channel) channel, the next (first adjacent channel) channel, and the channel two channels away (second adjacent channel). The new stations will not be geographically spaced from stations three channels away (third adjacent channel). For example, under the rules applicable to existing full power stations, where there is a station at 93.5 mHz,” there is currently no station in the same geographic area on 93.7 (the first adjacent channel), 93.9 (the second adjacent channel) or 94.1 (the third adjacent channel). The spacing criteria for LPFM stations will allow an LPFM station to be licensed on the third adjacent channel, or 94.1 in the vicinity of the full power station. The rules provide for a 20 km "buffer zone" of additional separation from co- and first-adjacent channels so that existing FM stations can modify facilities without undue adverse impact. They also provide for separation from existing vacant FM allotments. The new LPFM service will be exclusively noncommercial, there will be no commercial LPFM stations. In addition, current broadcast licensees or parties with interests in other media – cable or newspapers - will not be eligible for LPFM stations. LPFM stations will be licensed exclusively to local entities for the first two years of license availability. Later, however, non-local entities will be eligible for licenses. Each licensee may own only one station in any given community, however, eventually a licensee may own up to ten stations nationwide. Licensees will be subject to the same character qualifications as are currently applied to full power licensees. Unauthorized broadcasters will be disqualified unless they certify that they ceased operations when notified of their violation of FCC rules or by February 26, 1999. If mutually exclusive applications are received for LPFM stations in a given city, mutual exclusivity will be resolved through the award of points for established local presence, proposed hours of service, or locally originated programming. The point system would encourage mutually exclusive applicants to share their stations with other applicants. APPLICATION FORMS ARE NOW AVAILABLE. Application for Construction Permit for a Low Power FM Broadcast Station is available in Acrobat (pdf) format. Form 318 is available online here and through the FCC's Forms webpage. Applications will be accepted only in designated filing windows. The Commission will announce in a Public Notice when these filing windows are opened. Applications filed outside of these windows will not be accepted. When information is available on when to file applications for low power radio stations it will be posted on the Commission’s LPFM website at www.fcc.gov/lpfm or available by phone from the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC. Some radio reading services have raised concerns about interference to their services from LPFM. Radio reading services, which carry newspapers and other information aurally to the visually impaired population, operate as subcarriers on FM frequencies. Just as our testing has determined that existing stations will not experience harmful interference, the Commission stated in the Report & Order that subcarriers on these frequencies should not experience harmful interference. The concerns about radio reading services are related more to the unsophisticated technology of the receivers than to the signal itself. The Commission is looking into technical testing of radio reading service receivers. The Audio Services Division has created an Internet program to help LPFM applicants select a site which meets the minimum required separations to other broadcast stations. The LPFM Channel Finder and other important information is available though the Audio Service's Division LPFM website.