Last month we reported that the Commission had formally acknowledged the petition for rulemaking filed by SSR Communications proposing the creation of a new class of FM channel – Class C4 – to be shoe-horned in between current Class A and Class C3. Comments on the proposal were invited. The Media Bureau has now announced that the comment period has been extended a month, to September 18, 2014. Additionally, the deadline for replies to any incoming comments has been extended to October 3.
While a one-month extension isn’t necessarily the end of the world – particularly since the SSR petition was filed in January, 2013, some 18 months before the Commission deigned to acknowledge it, indicating that, as far as the FCC is concerned, time isn’t of the essence here – this particular extension could signal trouble for the proposal.
The extension was requested by REC Networks. REC is an advocacy group that focuses on community radio; it has been particularly active in promoting the cause of LPFM service. Consistent with that interest, REC’s extension request (as paraphrased in the Bureau’s announcement of the extension) noted that the Class C4 proposal would “substantially impact many of the LPFM and community-based noncommercial FM radio service stakeholders”. While REC may ultimately support the Class C4 proposal, it’s at least possible that it could view the proposal as contrary to the interests of the LPFM universe. After all, the creation of a new, intermediate FM class could permit the squeezing of service from full-power stations into areas that don’t already receive such service – and that, in turn, could reduce the space available for new LPFM service. Since the LPFM industry has enjoyed considerable success at the Commission in recent years, the possibility that its advocates might be gearing up to oppose the SSR proposal could be bad news for the proposal.
In any event, supporters and opponents of the SSR proposal now have until September 18 to prepare their comments.