Friday, December 31, 2010

FCC proposes changes to Travelers' Information Stations

The FCC is soliciting comments on proposals to change rules for Travelers' Information Stations. (TISs) These are low-powered AM stations, often in the expanded band, usually offering information about road construction and/or congestion. They may also provide non-commercial information about tourist attractions. Three organizations interested in these stations asked the FCC to broaden the scope of permissible service for these stations.

It appears some practices that are common among TISs are not particularly legal.. indeed, the NPRM notes that a Notice of Violation has been issued to TIS WQGR42 in Santa Monica, California for relaying a NOAA Weather Radio station. Also apparently not normally allowed, is broadcast of the same program on multiple TISs. (widely done by stations here in the Nashville area, though it's possible they have a FCC waiver)

The primary question being asked is what type of programming should these stations be allowed to broadcast. Some of the types proposed:

  • Relays of NOAA Weather Radio.

  • Amber Alerts.

  • Alternative emergency numbers when 911 is inoperative.

  • Homeland Security terror alert levels.

  • Public health information.

  • Civil defense information.

  • Information about 511 information services.

  • Simply, the broadcast of any information of a non-commercial nature.

  • One commenter suggested NOAA Weather Radio could be broadcast only when particular SAME codes are detected, indicating certain types of severe weather alerts exist.

    The NPRM also asks:

  • Should TIS stations be allowed at a distance from major roads?

  • Should it be permissible for the same program to be simulcast by multiple TISs?

  • Should the service be renamed the "Local Government Radio Service"?

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