Radio Group Alleges FCC Main Studio Vote Threatens Public Safety

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Common Frequency, which performs engineering and regulatory assistance for educational radio stations across the Western US, says the pending decision to eliminate the main studio rule is an “egregious” oversight that disregards that only 16% of Puerto Rico’s 3.34 million residents have regained electricity, more than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island.

October 23, 2017

For Immediate Release

Contact: Todd Urick, Common Frequency

Email: todd@commonfrequency.org Phone: (530) 792-0763

Radio Group Alleges FCC Main Studio Vote Threatens Public Safety

Disaster Communications Capacity Dependent On Local Origination

Davis,CA – A CA nonprofit organization has claimed a preliminary ruling up for a vote tomorrow at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) poses a grave threat to U.S. resilience after natural disasters. They ask for the main studio vote to be postponed until residents of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands can give testimony to the Commission.

Common Frequency, which performs engineering and regulatory assistance for educational radio stations across the Western US, says the pending decision to eliminate the main studio rule is an “egregious” oversight that disregards that only 16% of Puerto Rico’s 3.34 million residents have regained electricity, more than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island.

The nonprofit states: “We are at a point where natural disasters are commonplace with global climate change–flooding, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and landslides. The Commission has been unequivocally apprised of the situation in Puerto Rico–power, internet, and cellular communications for the most part, are decimated, with at first the only, and now primarily, form of communication being live analog radio broadcast. In emergency situations; broadcast main studios are the only communications infrastructure that stands between life and death”.

The letter cites FCC statistics on the impact of Hurricane Maria (one of several major hurricanes this year):


Per FCC’s Communications Status Report for Areas Impacted by Hurricane Maria   October 15, 2017 (25 days after impact)

Puerto Rico: 74.4% of the cell sites are out of service. 11 out of the 78 counties in Puerto Rico have 100% of their cell sites down.

U.S. Virgin Islands: Overall, 55.4%of cell sites are out of service. 88.9% of cell sites in St. John are out of service.


Per FCC’s Communications Status Report for Areas Impacted by Hurricane Maria   October 1, 2017 (10 days after impact)

Puerto Rico: Overall, 88.8% of cell sites are out of service

U.S. Virgin Islands: Overall, 68.9% of cell sites are out of service. 100% of cell sites in St. John are still out of service.


The FCC proceeding, Docket # 17-106, proposes to modernize regulations by eliminating the “main studio rule” which mandates broadcasters maintain at least a minimal studio in their community of license which can transmit terrestrial signals without dependence on the electrical grid. Broadcasters who jettisoned a main studio would be unable to transmit to their community of license in the event of severe interruptions to the wireline, cellular or broadband connections, which have reliably experienced service problems during natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes.

Common Frequency adds: “Our grievance lies in the Commission’s dismissal of this reality. Due to their eagerness to dismantle the nation’s decentralized content origination capacity, the Commission is setting up a disaster scenario that could potentially lead to the loss of lives of thousands of U.S. citizens”.

The nonprofit goes on to state: “We believe Commission voting on this issue should be tabled until U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico have a chance to comment on their first hand dependence upon the local studio as the sole emergency communications infrastructure”.

The full letter and accompanying policy comments can be read in full here.

The planned Commission vote on Tuesday October 24 occurs in the middle of nationwide concern over the insufficient federal response to the Puerto Rican disaster and the Federal Communication Commission’s aggressive attempts to undo Obama-era Open Internet regulations preventing blocking, throttling and paid prioritization on the nation’s Internet services.

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Common Frequency is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to innovative new community and college radio. By providing free and low-cost aid to regular people educating themselves to be the media, Common Frequency (CF) has been supporting the launch of grassroots stations since 2006. They believe every town should have a common frequency on which peoples’ voices can be broadcast and heard.  http://lpfm.commonfrequency.org/common-frequency/

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