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FCC Lets New Jersey Travel Info Station Boost Power During Pandemic

The FCC has granted Hudson County, N.J., which is adjacent to New York City, special authority to transmit COVID-19 pandemic information to listeners at ten times the power limit for its Travelers Information Service.

Those are the low-power radio services that provide traffic and weather information for motorists.

The county sought the power boost (from 10 watts to 100 watts) for the duration of the pandemic, saying it was the only way the country could reach all its "residents and transients" during the national emergency.

The FCC anticipated that the channels might need to be used for accidents, forest fires, floods and other events that could affect traffic, as well as bulletins on events affecting the immediate welfare of citizens, which the virus clearly does.

Hudson has previously sought a permanent waiver to boost its signal to 100 watts, which the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau denied, but added that if there were a major emergency that needed the power boost--again the pandemic would seem to fit that bill--it could request a temporary waiver of the power limit, which it has, and which the FCC has granted. The special temporary authority, an authority the FCC is using a lot during the crisis, is for 90 days or the end of the emergency, whichever comes first.

The county pointed out that under FCC rules, "emergency involving danger to life or property is sufficient grounds for receiving special temporary authority."

The FCC said that standard "clearly met in this case."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.