The Commission has asked for further comment on a proposal to increase the maximum digital power for FM stations using HD Radio™ technology. As we reported last October, about a year ago a consortium of radio licensees and equipment manufacturers asked the Commission to please, please, please increase the maximum permissible digital power of FM stations using “HD Radio” technology. (You can find a link to the request in our October post.) The requested increase was not a minor tweak by any means: the proposal would rocket the current max upward by a factor of ten, to 10% of the station’s authorized analog power. (Not all stations would necessarily benefit. It seems that some Super B stations running at that higher digital power might interfere with the analog signal of some first adjacent B’s, so Super B’s would be exempted out of the increase.)
Since the proponents painted a generally glorious picture of how good HD Radio is, you have to wonder why they feel the need for a major league power increase. And while the threat of potential interference tends to get downplayed by the proponents, the fact that even they recognize the need to deny at least one class of station the proposed increase because of interference concerns does not inspire confidence.
In any event, last October the Commission invited an initial round of comments on the proposal and, as it turns out, there appears to be considerable disagreement as to whether the proposal really is a good idea. Still, the proponents are urging expeditious action to fix “the coverage shortfalls and reception difficulties” which occur at the current levels. But NPR, which has provided a wealth of test data and related analysis already, has advised that it’s working on yet more testing, with a further report due to be presented this coming September.
So the Commission has now asked for further comment from the public.
In particular, the FCC asks whether it should hold off on the proposed power increase until the next NPR study is submitted and people have had a chance to review and comment on it. That sounds like a reasonable approach.
But wait. The Commission then poses the following question, which seems ever so slightly loaded:
Whether the record in this proceeding, the real-world experience gained from over 1,400 FM stations operating for several years in the hybrid mode and the record of experimental authorizations at higher digital power levels warrant an increase in maximum digital operating power [either as proposed by the proponents or at some lower level]?
Given the extended predicate of that question, we suspect that there’s a better than even chance that the staff won’t be waiting around for any NPR studies, but you never know. The FCC also wants to know whether, if it does allow power increases immediamente, it should establish standards to “ensure the lack of interference” to analog operations on first adjacents. Along the same lines, the Commission asks whether it should establish “more specific procedures to resolve digital-into-analog interference complaints.”
If you feel like chiming in on any of these questions, here’s your chance. As of this writing the deadlines for comments and replies haven’t been announced, but the time frames are likely to be short, so check our blog (www.commlawblog.com) for updates.