The History of LPFM

What is LPFM?

LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.

While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.

Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.

LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Read More

Mediageek’s Year In Review

One of the traditions Paul and I have fallen into the habit of doing is looking back at the past year in telecom policy. Although 2008 was more a year of hot air than actual doings, we decided to take the time on his latest show to critically examine Lawrence Lessig‘s proposal to “Reboot the FCC.”

Since Mediageek the radio show only runs in half-hour segments on the Internets, but is now actually an hour long in real-time, Paul has also posted the second segment of our show, where we examine 2008 in the context of FCC enforcement against pirate radio.

WEFT Back to Full Power, Sounding Better than Ever

Two days early, a crew of engineers and volunteers re-wired our transmission facilities to install WEFT’s new 10,000-watt transmitter. Coverage has not only returned to normal, but increased slightly, and the fidelity provided by the solid-state unit we now have has noticeably improved our signal.

According to a story in the daily newspaper, WEFT’s station manager says we’ll be “raising funds to replace more aging equipment as well.” Just in time for our fall fundraising drive….