Last month, the FCC released a Public Notice requesting further comments on the proposal to increase the power of HD radio operations. We have written about that proceeding a number of times, including posts here and here. The increased power for the digital radio signals has been sought by many broadcasters who believe that current HD radio power levels do not produce strong enough digital signals to penetrate buildings and fully serve radio markets. On the other hand, other broadcasters fear that the increased power for the digital signals will create interference to existing analog stations operating on adjacent channels. Today, the FCC set the dates for the filing of these additional comments - comments are due on July 6, with replies due on July 17.
While comments have already been filed on the proposal to increase digital power, the FCC has raised a number of specific issues on which it wants comments, especially in light of the studies sponsored by NPR in cooperation with a number of other broadcasters, which seek to do a comprehensive review of the interference potential of higher powered digital operations. NPR is shooting to have that report to the FCC in September. The specific questions raised in the new FCC notice are:
- Whether the FCC should wait to decide on the power increase proposal until after the NPR study is done
- Whether current operations by radio stations operating in HD, and the various tests that have already been run, demonstrate the need for higher power operation on a permanent or provisional basis
- Whether new standards of interference to adjacent channel stations should be adopted, and if the interference should also protect LPFM stations
- Whether there should be specific procedures adopted to resolve any interference issues that do arise.
Many of these questions have been addressed to one degree or another in previous comments. Other than the question of whether to defer any decision in the proceeding until after the NPR study has been completed, the one new issue raised in the FCC's request for comments is whether LPFM stations should be protected from potential interference from any HD radio operation. LPFM, which was originally established as a secondary service where stations could be dropped in where they would fit and preempted if there was interference from a full-power station, are receiving more and more protections from incursions from other stations. Here, again, the FCC is asking if these supposedly secondary services should be protected from uses from primary stations.
Interested parties should file their comments on the dates set out above.