Conflicting Signals on LPFM

A week and a half ago FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein hinted that the agency was preparing to move quickly on a report to Congress recommending fast expansion of the LPFM service. However, at the staff level the outlook is apparently much different. Recent correspondence between at least two LPFM applicants and the staff working on the processing of their applications suggests that plans to open up windows for 10-watt station applications have been suspended, perhaps indefinitely.
Another wrinkle in the service’s rollout involves the certification – or lack thereof – of some of the transmitters in use by LPFM stations. It seems that the FCC “gave incorrect information” to transmitter manufacturers about the process they would need to go through to have their LPFM transmitters certified acceptable for use by licensed stations. Just what the FCC’s error(s) was/were isn’t clear, but what it means is that some LPFM transmitters sold as “FCC certified” may not be.
In reality, this sounds much worse than it is: the certification process is mostly paperwork and mathematical proofs, along with a few bench tests, which ends up costing the manufacturer several thousand dollars (and jacks up the cost of “FCC certified” gear considerably). Several popular transmitter kit manufacturers sell their own lines of gear which, while not “type-accepted” by the FCC, more than meet its standards for spectral purity.
What would suck is if stations who bought transmitters from manufacturers who thought they were cleared to sell certified gear started getting smacked up with fines or worse because of the FCC’s own error.