The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice announcing the receipt of the Petition for Rulemaking asking that the FCC allow AM stations the option to operate an all-digital facility. We wrote about that Petition here. Currently, AM digital operations are allowed only in a hybrid mode – where the station transmits both an analog and a digital signal. Proponents of the all-digital operation argue that the full digital operation allows for better reception and increased stability of the transmission, and submit that it is time for stations that are willing to transmit in this better system to be allowed to do so without having to seek experimental authority – the only way in which an all-digital AM transmission is now allowed.
Some have suggested that, in order for the FCC to move this proposal forward on a timely basis, industry support is needed. Comments on this Petition for Rulemaking, specifically seeking comments on allowing operation in the MA3 All-Digital Mode of HD Radio, are due on May 13. If you are interested in having the option to operate an all-digital AM station, comments urging the FCC to move forward on this Petition should be filed by that deadline. Once comments are received, the FCC will consider them and, if they sense enough industry support, they will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking additional comments on rules for implementing this proposal. FCC approval for an all-digital AM service will not happen overnight, but this Public Notice and the comments due in May are certainly the first step in this evolution of AM radio.