Comments on proposed IBOC power increase due by July 6, replies by July 17

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. 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 for some, but not necessarily all, stations. (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.) 

As we previously reported, last October the Commission invited comments on the proposal. While a bunch of comments were filed back then, in late May the FCC sent out yet another invite. The deadline for that second round of comments was just announced: July 6 for comments, July 17 for replies. 

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your word processors.

From the initial round of comments there appeared to be considerable disagreement as to whether the proposal really is a good idea. The HD Radio cheerleaders, of course, were all rah-rah for the power boost. But given that those same cheerleaders tend to paint a generally glorious picture of how good HD Radio is already, 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. Still, the proponents urge expeditious action on the proposed power increase to fix “the coverage shortfalls and reception difficulties” which occur at the current levels. 

Not among the cheerleaders: NPR. NPR, which provided a wealth of test data and related analysis early on, has advised that it’s working on yet more testing, with a further report due to be presented this coming September. And a significant number of other early commenters expressed strong opposition to the proposal.

So the Commission has 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. Alternatively, the FCC suggests that it might be inclined to act now – and if it were to do so, it wants to know whether 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. Remember – comments are due by July 6, replies by July 17.