Prairie pirate nabbed by the FCC


Broadcasting PirateIt seems like most of the FM piracy detailed by the FCC takes place on the east coast, usually in Florida or New York. But this time, a buccaneer has been keel-hauled plying the waters of Iowa, south of the noncommercial band, clean off the standard FM dial at 87.9 MHz.

Agents from the FCC’s Kansas City office have put a stop to broadcasts on that frequency, and Thomas Costa of Iowa City IA has been named as the pirate responsible for them.

Agents traced a signal to a residence where Costa was renting a basement room. He admitted to setting up the radio station, which included a chimney-mounted antenna, but said he did it not for his own benefit but for “…several unnamed individuals.” He said they paid him to house the station, and he in turn used the money to pay rent to his landlord.

The reason Costa did not have the names of the station owners, he said, was because they did not want that information falling into the hands of the FCC. He said further that they warned him that he might get a visit from the FCC at some point.

The FCC noted that Costa in effect admitted right off the bat that he knew the station was unlawful, since efforts were allegedly made to keep the FCC from getting to the bottom of the station’s ownership.

And the FCC added, “…we find it implausible that Mr. Costa (or anyone for that matter) would install radio equipment, rent space, allow for unlawful operations in the rented space, and incur potential financial and other liability on behalf of complete strangers.”

The full-bore $10K notice of apparent liability for unauthorized operation has been levied against Costa.



  1. Actually, 87.9 is Channel 200 on the FCC’s channel plan for the FM Band. It has two or three stations on it and was used as a sort of displacement channel for old 10 wat Class D FM stations.

    Wasted spectrum at it’s best.

    • Since 87.9 MHz is in the FM Broadcast band, my two questions are

      at what power level was he transmitting <10W <100W <1000W ?
      maybe he thought he was lpfm or part 15 ok.

      What content was he transmitting? Pop music, talk radio, #s station?

  2. I would think that the FCC have larger fish to fry than an out of band FM operator with a chimney mounted antenna? Are there even more than three stations in the whole country on 87.9 other than somebody’s Sirius radio in their car?
    Why don’t they (the FCC) worry about the cellphone companies’ untruths about actual broadband data use on the cellphone bands actually dropping dramatically since imposing data limits? With the last quarter reporting in, there is no reason for cell companies to require any more bandwidth than what they already have and have already purchased (and are not using yet); they do NOT need 100 MHz of OTA TV frequencies as their lobby implies.

    FCC, worry about AM’s that don’t go to night power or pattern, FM IBOC & AM IBOC stations that splatter 3 frequencies up and down the dial and not some little pea-shooter in the middle of nowhere in Iowa.

  3. The FCC should allow for LPFM and minimal class A FM usage of that channel. I propose no more than 100 watts transmitter power with an ERP limit of 400 watts.

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