Commission invites preliminary comments on 18-month old petition for establishment of new class of FM station.

A proposal to shoe-horn in another class of FM station between existing Classes A and C3 has taken a small but at least observable step ahead. We wrote about the proposal back when it first walked in the door at the FCC in January, 2013. Essentially, the idea is that the FM spectrum could be put to more efficient use if a new class of station – proposed ominous name: Class C4 – were to be established with maximum ERP of 12 kW and maximum antenna height of 100 meters.

The latest – actually, to this point, the only – indication of progress? The Commission has released a public notice formally identifying the petition for rulemaking (now dubbed “RM No. 11727”) inviting interested folks to file “statements opposing or supporting” the petition within 30 days, i.e., by Monday, August 18, 2014.

If you think that a new C4 classification would be the answer to your prayers, feel free to let the FCC know. But don’t get your hopes up. The invitation for comments is by no means a huge step. Rather, it’s a ministerial action that offers no promise of any further progress at all, ever. And the fact that the petition has been pending for 18 months without even getting this far certainly does not suggest a high level of enthusiasm at the Commission.

But it is, undeniably, a step. And for that, credit is due to Matt Wesolowski, the CEO of SSR Communications. The petition for rulemaking was filed in the name of SSR, and Mr. W has been working tirelessly in the intervening year and a half, encouraging interest within the ranks of FM licensees while pressing the Commission to move the petition forward. Congrats to him for getting the petition officially on the FCC’s radar screen at long last. Where it will go from here may depend on the support – or opposition – the proposal receives from commenters over the next month. So if you do think this is a particularly good or particularly bad idea, now is the time to start letting the FCC know.

But regardless of how the comments shake out, don’t be surprised if things continue to move slowly.