FCC Update: Low Power Window Announced at Last!

FCC Update: Low Power Window Announced at Last!

The FCC has at last launched the application process for new low power radio stations. On June 17, the agency announced that all new applications will be due during a two-week window, October 15-29, 2013. The application form is online at the FCC's website and must be filed electronically, although a pdf version is also available to review.

The new low power application has a few important changes from the past. First, new stations will be permitted in urban areas for the first time ever. As long as an applicant can prove that their station would cause no harmful interference, the FCC will grant a special waiver. This new change will double or triple the number of new stations available, and it's a major victory for Prometheus and our allies who fought for it.

Another big change is the point system that determines who wins if two or more applicants are competing for a license. Just as before, the FCC still awards points to stations that will do local programming and to those who have been in the community for at least two years. But the FCC is now rewarding stations who pledge to maintain a publicly accessible studio, staffed (by volunteers or paid staff) at least 20 hours per week. Prometheus and our friends at Common Frequency and REC Networks proposed this studio point because we believe that low power radio should be community-driven, and the FCC agreed. Learn more about the point system in our application checklist.

With applications due in just under four months, those who are interested should start preparing right away. The application is free, but most urban applicants will need to hire an engineering consultant. Prometheus will offer a free webinar on July 2 where you can learn more about the application process!

Meanwhile, FCC staff continue to process a backlog of pending applications for translators. These are the repeater stations that extend the signals of other radio stations. Thanks to advocacy from Prometheus and our allies, the FCC will only accept those translator applications that don’t block opportunities for community radio in cities with limited spectrum. The FCC appears to be on track to process the applications before October.

Prometheus thanks FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn for her strong leadership on low power radio, as well as all the FCC staff who have been toiling away to make this happen. It also wouldn't have been possible without everyone who wrote the FCC, signed petitions, or supported the work of Prometheus. Thank you!