Airways and airwaves

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Airways and airwaves

Aug 1, 2006 12:00 PM, by Chriss Scherer, editor

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In June, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that on the surface appears to have a legitimate goal, but in reality could become a burden to most radio broadcasters if adopted. The NPRM seeks to change the name of a section of the FAA rules to Safe, Efficient Use and Preservation of the Navigable Airspace.

As you read the 73-page notice, you will see lots of explanatory language about FAA matters. This is certainly helpful to someone new to the FAA's procedures, but it makes it that much more difficult to weed through the notice to get to the meat. The summary notes that the goal of the proceeding is to add notification requirements and obstruction standards for electromagnetic interference and amend obstruction standards as well as some other elements that pertain to aviation.

What will likely catch your eye are the details surrounding the notification requirements relating to electromagnetic interference (EMI). The details are unveiled on page 18. The FAA wants radio spectrum users to notify the FAA for any new or modification of a building, antenna structure or any man-made structure that supports a radiating element in any of 13 frequency ranges. The frequencies range from 54MHz to 23.6GHz in the following blocks: 54 to 108MHz; 150 to 216MHz; 406 to 420MHz; 932 to 935/941MHz; 952 to 960MHz; 1,390 to 1,400MHz; 2,500 to 2,700MHz; 3,700 to 4,200MHz; 5,000 to 5,650MHz; 5,925 to 6,525MHz; 7,450 to 8,550MHz; 14.2 to 14.4GHz; and 21.2 to 23.6GHz.

Required FAA notice would cover modifications to a tower or antenna, an increase in radiated power greater than 3dB, a change in authorized frequency and other facility modifications. The NPRM also requires that such notice must be filed at least 60 days in advance.

It's troubling that the FAA NPRM deals with EMI in a broad way, but this fits with how the FAA has always viewed spectrum issues.

Page eight of the NPRM notes that the FAA and the FCC already work together on aeronautical studies and adds that �if further coordination procedures are necessary, the agencies will develop them jointly.� This has an encouraging sound to it, but the NPRM does not clearly detail how the FAA should be notified of the facility changes if the NPRM is enacted.

It makes sense to have the FAA and the FCC work together to ensure that broadcast and BAS spectrum users do not interfere with aviation, but this is best done through an intra-agency effort. Requiring spectrum users to file with two agencies for the same intended use is inefficient. The intra-agency aspect fits nicely with the government's paperwork reduction efforts. Unfortunately, the FAA and the FCC are not known for their cooperative efforts.

With the current FCC rules there can be long delays while the FCC makes its review of an application. Add the FAA element will only make this worse. If the FAA NPRM is enacted, realistic time periods for resolution must be stipulated. Likewise, the FAA needs to use realistic RF models to determine EMI.

Comments are due by Sept. 11 and can be submitted online. I urge you to read the NPRM and file comments.

Remembering history

It's been one year since the hurricanes tore through the Southeastern coastal states, and five years since 9/11. Despite the tragedy, these events held bright moments for broadcasting. Stations that stayed on the air or found ways to return to the air were able to inform listeners when Internet and phone service was gone. This is the power of radio.

Read the FAA NPRM

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