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Communications Government

FCC Silenced Puerto Rico Radio Station's Boosters In March 2017 155

An dochasac writes: WAPA (680 AM) is a radio station in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria took out power, phone lines, cell towers and internet, WAPA was the only Puerto Rican radio station on the air for crucial public emergency communication. But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal. This decision limited the coverage, signal strength and signal quality of this station for remote and mountainous parts of Puerto Rico where the need for emergency communications is greatest. The FCC audio division chief who pulled WAPA's synchronous booster license decided to retire a few days ago. The position is open but is focused on legal training rather than technical expertise and experience with emergency communications.

FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states. With IoT, cellular, mesh, satellite, social media and cognitive radio, communications technology is changing much faster than the FCC's legal efforts to regulate it. But its arcane regulations leave Puerto Rico as one of the few islands in the Caribbean without a long distance shortwave broadcast station. With line of sight FM stations offline and WAPA's AM station neutered, post-Maria Puerto Ricans have a better chance of getting news and emergency information from Havana, Cuba than from anything under the FCC's increasingly pointless jurisdiction.
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FCC Silenced Puerto Rico Radio Station's Boosters In March 2017

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  • smdh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 30, 2017 @02:04AM (#55282145)

    No bias in that summary at all LOL....

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      What bias? That's a perfectly mainstream and obviously objective account! What are ya, some kind of a Nazi, or what?

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        hahahaha.. right so if some rightwing station neglected to follow procedure and bitched about being shut off, you wouldn't be all over them for not following the rules?

        mainstream does not imply objectivity.

        • hahahaha.. right so if some rightwing station neglected to follow procedure and bitched about being shut off, you wouldn't be all over them for not following the rules?

          WAPA Radio: the most conservative, right-wing news and talk station of all such operations in Puerto Rico.

          • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

            ok, and so therefore?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by radiodavid ( 5103841 )

              ok, and so therefore?

              Therefore any claim that WAPA was being punished for being a progressive voice is null and voided.

              WAPA had already replaced the boosters with existing stations which it bought in the respective cities of Puerto Rico, but they were not operative due to the effects of the storm... just as the boosters would not have been operative.

              The issue is simply that the storm was so destructive that only 4 or 5 stations were able to stay on the air or return to the air immediately after (WIPR, WKAQ, WAPA, WODA, W

              • There is a reason that you put AM transmitter towers in low moist areas. The ground is more conductive in those areas and that makes the antennas more effective, meaning more signal coverage. Radio stations in richer parts of the world often have backup studio and transmitter sites, but most stations in Puerto Rico can't afford to do that.

                On the other hand, you put FM transmitter towers on high ground to get the actual antenna (which, unlike AM, is not the entire tower) as high as possible. FM reception is

              • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

                All of this may be true, but it has nothing to do with what either the GP insinuated or my response to him.

      • Objective? The post ignores all the other stations (WKAQ, WIPR, WODA, WUNO, etc.) that were on the air during or immediately after the storm. WAPA is not unique, as there are 131 fully licensed stations in Puerto Rico. The poster talks about short-wave, yet shortwave is long-gone from the Caribbean except for the propaganda mill of post-Castro Cuba. The poster blames the suspension of what was always an experimental operation of boosters for Puerto Rico's lack of news and information, yet the locations of
        • It's true that shortwave broadcasting is mostly gone from the Caribbean. That's unfortunate, because it's a resource that is uniquely suited to the situation that Puerto Rico is in now; it can cover a large area with signal even when no infrastructure exists. That need is one reason that the Australian Broadcasting Company continues to offer shortwave broadcasts for the benefit of Australia's small islands.

          Existing shortwave broadcasters could beam additional broadcasts toward Puerto Rico, including the US'

          • Australia cancelled its domestic shortwave broadcasts aimed at the outback, the Northern Territory and peripheral islands about two months ago. An appeal to their legislature failed and the broadcasts are silent.
          • by MercTech ( 46455 )

            How many even own a shortwave receiver any more?
            How many commercial shortwave stations are still a viable business?

            With internet and satellite broadcast, shortwave seems to be going the way of medium wave stations in the U.S. (commercial AM in the U.S. is "medium wave" to most of the world)

            I dug the shortwave out of the emergency gear. The numbers stations are still there. I got a futball match out of Australia. A couple of music broadcasts in Spanish, And way too many radio televangelists. Voice of A

            • I don't think commercial shortwave broadcasting has ever been a viable business. The audience is too diffuse and too difficult to measure. Most shortwave broadcasting was done by governments and religious organizations. But now the governments are shutting down operations, leaving just the religious stations.

              But those government broadcasts had the potential to be valuable resources in a disaster situation. They can't do that if they're off the air. But it's also true that they are no help if nobody has the

    • Re:smdh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @07:57AM (#55282997)

      I'm not sure even the summary author knows exactly what he's complaining about here.

      Is he complaining that the FCC requires a radio station submit the proper paperwork to keep its boosters operating?

      Is he complaining that the FCC exists at all?

      Is he complaining that right-wing talk show hosts are allowed to broadcast in the U.S., and wtf does that have to do with Puerto Rico anyway?

      Dude, find a coherent thesis before you hit the submit button.

      • by Jerry ( 6400 )

        Good questions!
        Another question is: Since he is so concerned about what he considers extremist radio stations in the "lower 48" why didn't he mention the fact that the Far-Left has been broadcasting Marxist Theology on Pacifica Radio on the West coast for 71 years?

        Fortunately for America, the Comrades have, during that time, repeatedly re-enacted the Lenin-Trotsky wars by purging their ranks of those with politically impure thoughts. What was politically impure depended on who was in power at the time.

    • But its arcane regulations leave...

      Should be no suprise that's it's politically motivated; real writers at least know when to use correct tense.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states.

    Can't tell if he's far right, and complaining about being silenced by the left, or far left, and complaining that "those pesky nazis" get to spew their hate speech.

    • Re:Bias??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by peterofoz ( 1038508 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @02:52AM (#55282267) Homepage Journal

      FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states.

      Can't tell if he's far right, and complaining about being silenced by the left, or far left, and complaining that "those pesky nazis" get to spew their hate speech.

      Either way its -10 points for off topic content.

    • Re:Bias??? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @03:43AM (#55282391) Journal

      FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states.

      Can't tell if he's far right, and complaining about being silenced by the left, or far left, and complaining that "those pesky nazis" get to spew their hate speech.

      I can tell. He's a lefty who's tweaked that the FCC won't censor his political opposition.

      Since the number of stations (and alternative media outlets) climbed to the point where there was no shortage to be used to justify forcing radio stations to present all positions on controversial subjects, the "fairness doctrine" regulations were removed. This let free speech came at last to radio, which enabled the talk radio industry.

      Talk radio ended up presenting primarily conservative viewpoints, mainly because progressive viewpoints tend to be presented as as 1984-style duckspeak rants attempting to enforce consensus, and this verbal abuse didn't attract enough listeners for such shows to achieve financial success.

      • Maybe eliminating the fairness doctrine did increase freedom in some regard. It gave idiots like Limbaugh the freedom to establish a more cohesive, biased soapbox to stand on. But sustaining an informed, thinking, free society? Not so much.
      • by Jahoda ( 2715225 )
        mainly because progressive viewpoints tend to be presented as as 1984-style duckspeak rants attempting to enforce consensus

        What a clearly unbiased opinion! It's a good thing conservatives so rarely engage in such things.
    • He's not complaining about right-wing AM talk radio. That's pretty much the only profitable AM radio market in the US.

      I mean, he may be, but complaining about the only profitable political discussion media in America seems dumb. And yes, I'm assuming that the mainstream media outlets are not making any money spewing left-wing propaganda (and profit is not their goal, so no problem).

      More than anything, I'm surprised but heartened that such vitriolic, hateful, and bigoted claims are made in the article. We s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When it comes to incompetence, the US federal government takes the cake (and keeps it until it is stale before giving out too-small pieces to people who probably don't deserve it.) But Puerto Rico is right up there with self-serving greed, corruption, and third-world trashing of anything that doesn't have armed guards around it. Perhaps they should give up their holier-than-thou "commonwealth" charade and get a real territorial governor that could start bringing them into the late 19th century overall.

  • Puerto Rico is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @03:20AM (#55282321)

    Nothing but a corrupt banana republic run by a handful of thieving families.......it's no different than Guam, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa. Illiteracy even in government officials is rampant. I personally know one representative in Washington who is a high school dropout (he's also a Democrat). Getting a permit filled out is beyond most of them. The US allows them self-government and this is what happens. And of course, getting lawyers involved in any government department is asking for trouble.

    • Puerto Rico has been created in its current form by the USA.

      Investigate the Jones Act and then come back and tell us how the USA has allowed free commerce to develop the economy there.

    • Really? I find that very hard to believe. Per the US government's own website: [govtrack.us] "Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. Because it is not a state, it has no senators and its representative in the House of Representatives is a delegate, called the Resident Commissioner, with limited voting privileges. Delegates have a marginalized role in Congress and their constituents are not represented in Congress in the same manner as most citizens."

      So you personally know Jenniffer González-Colón
  • Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @04:01AM (#55282431)

    But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal.

    Bullshit. It wasn't "procedural issues" it was a lack of compliance with the terms they were allowed to add boosters.

    Blanco-Pi sought and received annual renewals for the Stations' licenses, albeit often without the
    required reports of his experimental progress.
    5 In 2009, he sought to add a third synchronous booster to
    the two he was already operating in conjunction with station WISO.6 After initially denying the
    application based on an erroneous interpretation of the rules,7 the staff denied reconsideration based on
    Blanco-Pi ' s failure to demonstrate any further experimental benefit of adding a third AM synchronous
    booster, at Guayama, Puerto Rico, to WISO and the two existing AM synchronous boosters.
    8 In seeking
    review, Blanco-Pi attempted, for the first time, to justify the addition of a new AM booster station on
    technical and experimental grounds; the Commission disregarded these new arguments pursuant to
    Section 1.115(c) of the rules.9

    Who would have thought that flaunting the rules would eventually get you shut down, right?

    Also, if you think all this regulation on radio frequencies is silly then you should realize that the shielding on power supplies (that would otherwise jam most of the RF spectrum) only exist because of regulation that protects the RF spectrum from mass contamination.

    • To add more fuel to the article bashing fire:

      This is WAPA's Daytime Signal Propagation at 10000 Watts. [radio-locator.com]
      This is WAPA's Nighttime Signal Propagation at 9500 Watts [radio-locator.com]

      At local range not only does it cover all of Puerto Rico, but starts to hit the Dominican Republic. Even cheap AM radios should be able to pick it up over most of the island.

      A higher quality radio (such as a car stereo since power is out over most of the island) should have no trouble picking this up anywhere on the island at any time of the day short

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Maps like that necessarily gloss over terrain interference and such. If you could zoom in and the map was inch for inch accurate, you would see shadowed areas where reception is poor to non-existent.

        • Thats correct, there is going to be some terrain loss when it comes to propagation, but it shouldn't be that large of an issue overall with AM. Here's an example of what you're referring to using UHF.

          WAPA TV's coverage map. [tvfool.com]

          Unfortunately, I can't find a site that does maps quite like this for anything other than TV, but it shows what terrain can do to a UHF signal.

          The difference however between UHF and MW when it comes to propagation is huge. UHF is typically received via Line of Sight and needs massive ERP

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            OTOH, if that was true, I can't imagine any commercial operation saying, "What the heck, lets blow a few $100K on repeaters anyway.".

  • Really, antifa??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @04:08AM (#55282449)

    FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states.

    Perhaps you should have mentioned that you want to censor people you disagree with instead of assuming that everyone on Slashdot happens to have your same brave wave pattern.

  • What a load of crap. (Score:5, Informative)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @05:15AM (#55282581)
    The whole summary reeks of an opportunistic attempt to drum up support for someone who has been trying to abuse the system for commercial gain.

    First, AM booster stations only work when they have power, so there's no weight behind the implication that communications are being affected. Second, other than the "7 words" and some advertising (cigarettes, booze) the government doesn't control content, especially political content, which is protected by this 1st Amendment thing. Third, the author apparently thinks AM radio is "shortwave." It isn't.

    Finally, AM Synchronous Boosters are classified as experimental, and are licensed "with a view to the development of science or technique." When WAPA first started using them, licenses had 1 year renewable terms, reflecting their temporary nature.

    Eng. Wifredo G. Blanco-Pi, the owner of WAPA, has been using this experimental license for commercial, rather than experimental, purposes for 6 years. Current rules limit the total term of experimental licenses to 5 years. So, the FCC didn't renew them the last time around. As the FCC's decision [fcc.gov] says,

    ...he is not presently operating the Stations within the parameters set forth for experimental authorizations, that is, solely in order to utilize "radio waves in experiments with a view to the development of science or technique." Rather, he is operating the Stations as regular full-time programming adjuncts to WAPA and WISO, including advertisements. ...such operations are not appropriate for stations with experimental authorizations. In the Petition, Blanco-Pi makes it clear that he seeks to retain the Stations, not based on any further experimentation, but rather on their value as full-time re-broadcasters of the programming carried on WAPA and WISO. ...he opposes the loss of the Stations because they extend WISO and WAPA's service to other parts of the island of Puerto Rico. Blanco-Pi argues that he should be allowed to have a greater coverage area for the programming broadcast over his existing full-power stations, in part because he believes his programming to be superior to his competitors'. However, no broadcaster can simply transform experimental stations into full-time program services, much less extend those services to other communities in order to program against its competitors. ..."establishment of a new AM booster station merely to extend the service of an existing AM station impermissibly circumvents our commercial AM filing window and competitive bidding processes."

    • by Xylantiel ( 177496 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @09:31AM (#55283331)
      [operation of these] impermissibly circumvents our commercial AM filing window and competitive bidding processes. (from your quote) -- The story is pretty close to the level of fake news. It conflates boosters for commercial stations (which these were never supposed to be) with boosters for radio science (what these were permitted as) in order to give a false impression of the situation. There is a legal way to have boosters, but this station was intentionally avoiding that process, almost certainly in order to avoid the bidding. The headline should be "FFC blocked station's attempt to cheat on regulations." If there is any blame here it is on the station not the FCC.
  • Wait....what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states." Is the FCC supposed to be censoring conservatives or something? I didn't realize the FCC worked for the DNC.

  • Left (Score:4, Interesting)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @06:58AM (#55282855)

    >"FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states."

    WTF does that have to do with the story? So every Slashdot posting now has to be turned into a left-wing political statement/commentary?

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

      I wonder as how the story itself in it current form managed to get to the front page of /. in the first place.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "I wonder as how the story itself in it current form managed to get to the front page of /. in the first place."

        C'mon. A 4 digit UID, and you still don't understand how /. editors do their job?
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @07:01AM (#55282869)

    I know there are some legitimate beefs about its relation to the Federal Government, but it would seem to have a lot of things going for it. Direct participation in the US dollar economy, border free movement of goods and people between the US. And as Florida fills up and becomes more expensive, wouldn't Puerto Rico become an appealing substitute with the same kind of tropical appeal?

    Sure, it's got more poor people than may be average for the US mainland, but shouldn't that result in more business investment due to labor cost advantages? Or contribute to its viability as a retirement/vacation/resort destination?

    I suppose there are standard, pedantic arguments that its handicapped by "colony" status and that racist US politicians have treated it poorly because its residents are Spanish speaking "foreigners" and so on.

    But generally speaking, I would expect Puerto Rico to be doing better given its relative advantages over someplace like Jamaica or the Dominican Republic.

    • Um, being governed by a remote power is pretty bad for local development. While you mention it, you don't seem to realize that "colony" status is typically hugely economically stifling because the people managing the government at the top level have NO interest in local issues because they have no ties to the locality. While this FCC story is a red herring, there are many instances where Puerto Rico is simply ignored by the people in charge on the mainland. How long did it take to just allow foreign supp
      • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @12:45PM (#55284201)
        "How long did it take to just allow foreign supplies to be delivered during a major natural disaster?"

        I take that as an oblique reference to the Jones Act, which has no effect on foreign supplies. It applies to shipments between US ports, and its effect is economic, so doesn't prevent any shipments.

        Furthermore, the current issue is not getting supplies to PR, it's getting them off the docks there and on to where they need to be due to blocked roads and a lack of truckers. Making it cheaper to put a cargo container on the dock isn't currently helping the situation at all.
  • What is needed is a 50kW regional channel broadcast with directional antenna (one end of the island point to the other). This should be more than sufficient to cover the island.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      If terrain is in the way, no single transmitter, no matter how powerful (within reason), is enough.
      If terrain is not in the way, you don't really need all that much power

      From what I gather, there is a terrain problem that makes it very difficult for a single transmitter to cover the entire territory, hence the "booster" stations strategically located to get around that issue.

      Now it appears that the owner of the stations has been trying to use the wrong licensing for those stations, and therefore got shut do

      • The terrain is the issue. The news / talk networks on the Island use combinations of 4 or 5 local stations in each of the larger cities (San Juan, Mayagüez, Ponce, Arecibo) to cover most of the territory. Single transmitters, like 50 kw WKVM in San Juan, don't even fully cover much more than their immediate metro and surrounding areas. Ing. Blanco was simply trying to add coverage without having to buy additional stations, and he did it the wrong way. There are 131 licensed AM and FM stations in the C
    • It's intended to provoke a response from Trump supporters, thus alerting honest, intelligent Americans to their presence.

  • by CrAlt ( 3208 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @08:27AM (#55283109) Homepage Journal

    WAPA replaced the synchronized stations by buying other stations on different frequencies. They have 6 stations across the island.
    WAPA was not "neutered". People just had to move the dial as they moved around the island.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    The synchronized relays where licensed for EXPERIMENTAL use.
    With no power the old synchronized stations would be off the air just like the 5 other stations they maintain now.

    The synchronized system was more complicated then just running the stations on different frequencies like they do now. Each relay had to be GPS disciplined and needed perfect back-haul. If one of the relays become out of sync it would actually end up jamming the other stations. Imagine one of the relay stations getting out of wack and you have no way to get to the site to fix it or shut it down.

    • WAPA replaced the synchronized stations by buying other stations on different frequencies. They have 6 stations across the island. WAPA was not "neutered". People just had to move the dial as they moved around the island.

      Thus allowing this single station to unnecessarily monopolize valuable public bandwidth that could have been used for competing stations, competing ideas, community radio, emergency broadcasts...

      So which of the FCC's strategic goals does this fall under? 1) Promoting Economic Growth and National Leadership, 2) Protecting Public Interest Goals, 3) Making Networks Work for Everyone or 4) Promoting Operational Excellence?

      This experimental license had been renewed for more than a decade. It was pulled with on

  • "The FCC audio division chief who pulled WAPA's synchronous booster license decided to retire a few days ago.

    I bet he did. The son of a bitch probably has blood on his hands. Not that this administration would care, given the location.

  • FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states.

    I'll listen to the local NPR affiliate and the local news and talk station with the "right wing nutjobs" depending on which one happens to hold my interests that day. On Rush Limbaugh's show I hear him giving away brand new high end iPhones to people that call in. On NPR they keep asking listeners for money and trying to keep their government funding.

    How much money does Rush make on his show? I don't know. Enough to hand out a dozen iPhones every week? Maybe he gets the phones for free from Apple but t

  • The 107 comments so far relate to an inaccurate original post. First, with the exception of Cuba's probaganda machine called Radio Havana, there is no longer any use of short-wave anywhere on the Caribbean islands. On most Caribbean island nations, AM radio has been shuttered with many FM stations operating from seemingly every island and atol in the region. Further, there are no shortwave radio receivers available. Then there is the question of why anyone would open a shortwave station in Puerto Rico, sinc
  • Regulatory agencies should be removed every 10-20 years. This would mean completely eliminating all personnel and a minimum of regulation. government does not have the agility to meet the needs of the changing technologies and regulatory agencies tend to stifle growth, cater to companies that pay them off and do not listen to the consumers . They need a time limit, I would actually suggest that everything have an expiration date, WTF is this that politicians make decision with lifelong generational effect
  • If it was important to the station owners, they wouldn't have messed up the license renewals.

    But WAPA's signal coverage was significantly cut in March 2017 when the FCC refused to renew the license for synchronous AM booster stations at Arecibo, Mayaguez and Aguadilla in March due to procedural issues with the petition for renewal.

    They messed up the paperwork, the gov't merely expected the station to follow the rules...

    This decision limited the coverage, signal strength and signal quality of this station for remote and mountainous parts of Puerto Rico where the need for emergency communications is greatest.

    This so-called "decision" was not, in fact, a decision, it was in fact the the result of failing to follow the legal process of requesting a renewal six months before the hurricane hit the island - nothing more.

  • ...like bullshit. I can pretty much guarantee that this story is full of holes.

  • "FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states" - good - they're not supposed to do that, due to the pesky 1st Amendment. Free speech and all that.
  • "FCC audio division's regulations have done little to stop AM and satellite radio from broadcasting right-wing streams-of-consciousness throughout the lower 48 states." Seriously? Guess you don't believe in free speech.

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