Despite massive resistance from the broadcast industry, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a Report and Order creating a low power FM radio service.
Although it cited everything from the massive public demand to the First Amedment to diversity on the airwaves, the Commission was still divided on the issue, and victory was slim. The vote was 3-2 in favor of legalizing LPFM.
However, the new service is not perfect, and will not serve everyone it could have. The full regulations governing LPFM have yet to be completely written, but the general concept is now reality.
The first applications for LPFM stations might be taken as early as May; there will be a five-day filing window for the applications, and the FCC will give a 30-day notice before opening the application window.
Here are the essentials of the new low power FM radio service:
Non-profit educational entities and organizations providing public safety services (including local units of government). Schools, churches and other community-based organizations are the targets for LPFM.
The entire service will be non-commercial - advertisements will not be allowed, but underwriting and program sponsorship will be.
Two Classes of Stations - LP-100 and LP-10:
LP-100 stations will operate between 50 and 100 watts, with a maximum antenna height of 30 meters. This would provide a coverage radius of 3.5 miles (7 miles in diameter).
LP-10 stations will operate with between one and 10 watts, with a maximum antenna height of 30 meters. This would provide a coverage radius of 1-2 miles (2-4 miles in diameter).
The thousand-watt class of stations (LP-1000) was dropped because the FCC felt that "licensing stations of this size would not be in the public interest."
LP-10 stations will NOT be allowed until after the initial round of LP-100 license applications have been submitted and processed. The intent is to fill the 'largest gaps' first with the most powerful LPFM stations, giving them the first crack to apply to serve a community.
If an LP-100 station simply is not possible in a given area, or nobody applies for one in an area where one may be possible, then LP-10 applications will be allowed. It would also seem that both classes station will be on 'equal footing' once the initial round of licensing has been conducted.
All LP stations will have a traditional call sign with 'LP' added to the end of it (WXXX-LP / KYYY-LP).