[AMRadio] ARRL vs FCC over BPL

VJB wa3vjb at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 17 11:27:27 EDT 2008

I check the FCC's online filing system from time to time just to keep tabs on what the ARRL is not telling us, and have found a document that describes a recent meeting between League people and the FCC.

I wrote up this story that will soon appear on QRZ.com.  It's also worth passing long here since I refer to the dreaded bandwidth controversy as among the risks to goodwill the League has staged in recent years.

Note, too, that the IARU's top leadership is liable to move to Germany the next round. The two candidates announced to replace Larry Price and the second-in-command are both German licensees. This initially may prove to be a good thing, if purging onetime League staffers can mean something good at repairing the Regional Band Plans that are damaging to AM.


ARRL managers, lawyer meet with FCC on Powerline Internet Matter

WASHINGTON -- Representatives of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) met with officials at the FCC July 9 to discuss a recent court ruling about the Commission's standards for allowable RF emissions from powerline-based distribution of internet service, nicknamed "broadband over power lines," or BPL.

The method delivers data through overhead utility lines and residential electrical wiring, and must radiate to some extent as a radio signal, potentially causing unintentional digital interference to primary reception by licensees in the Amateur Service and other users of shortwave spectrum.

Of the two general types of BPL delivery systems, one uses in-house electrical wiring with limited potential to interfere beyond the home, while another method uses the elevated outdoor powerlines that can act as an antenna to transmit digital interference over a greater distance.

Despite a lack of market enthusiasm for BPL technology caused partly by a rise in popularity of "wi-fi," satellite, cellular, and other wireless digital methods of delivering internet service, the League, a non-profit publishing and subscription membership company, has spent considerable effort highlighting what it once portrayed as a grave threat to radio hobbyists.

The ARRL's campaign included a controversial lawsuit filed against the FCC accusing the agency of failing to abide by rules mandating the disclosure of studies and deliberations affecting public rulemaking. A federal court in Washington agreed that the FCC was not completely candid in describing how it arrived at its standards for allowable RF emissions from BPL, and in June published an order to the agency to revisit the matter.

But the League failed to convince the court to go further and force the FCC to accept outside studies the ARRL contends are valid in any review of potential interference. The FCC has said its rules use a standard of preventing interference from BPL that is actually harmful to communications, a prospective situation that has not been fully demonstrated by the ARRL. Otherwise, the agency asserts BPL emissions fall within longstanding limits imposed on other devices such as in-home remote controls, "carrier current" broadcast stations, and control signals used for energy conservation by the power companies.

The club now acknowledges that the industry itself has refined modems and delivery infrastructure to voluntarily reign in the chance for interference. It is not yet clear whether there is permanent damage to a previously cooperative relationship between the FCC and the ARRL in the aftermath of litigation the group had filed.

Controversy over the club's decision to sue the agency included complaints by subscribers that they were not consulted before League officials decided to risk goodwill and the standing of the Amateur Service among FCC staff. The ARRL had recently suffered an embarrassing series of foul-ups in front of the FCC and eventual failure of its threatened proposal to have mandatory government segregation of HF activities by bandwidth instead of the longstanding, popular system of organizing activities by mode.

Creating a separate controversy over that matter, the League instead persuaded the International Amateur Radio Union to adopt similar segregation-by-bandwidth protocols, again without the support of U.S. licensees it was supposed to represent at the IARU. The ARRL staffer who proposed rigid bandwidth restrictions has since left the ARRL, and candidates announced to replace onetime ARRL officials now heading the IARU do not include any additional League staffers.

Representing the club in Newington before the FCC has been Chris Imlay, a Maryland-based communications lawyer whose clients also include Kenwood, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and a number of commercial radio and television stations. Imlay filed a summary of last week's meeting with the FCC and revealed that his client is willing to settle for the tighter technical standards against interference that BPL providers have voluntarily begun to implement, that are beyond those imposed by the government.

Imlay noted what he called a "second generation" of systems the industry has established, and said the ability of those systems to minimize interference is now enough to "protect Amateur Radio communications," without "significant constraint" on any companies that may continue to construct systems using powerlines to deliver internet service.

The League's attorney asked the FCC to consider simply adopting rules that take advantage of the improved systems, that he says would allow "mandatory notching of all Amateur allocations by BPL systems," and "notch depths of 35db," that he says is a 10db improvement over older systems that were allowed in the marketplace.

The ARRL is already on record as supporting certain brands of BPL systems that the organization's paid technical staff had determined were cleaner than other systems. The latest regulatory proposal by the club suggests a realization the FCC may not be willing to go but so far in revisiting a process that the agency believes will protect licensees from harmful interference.

The FCC, as part of the proceeding to date, has said it's up to licensees to identify and initially work directly with the source of interference to resolve any complaint. "We will continue to require BPL providers to comply with this process where licensed radio operators make meritorious claims of interference from BPL operations."

According to documents filed with the FCC's online system, the July 9 meeting included Imlay, and two non-technical ARRL administrators, Joel Harrison, president of the club, and David Sumner, the highest-ranking unelected staff member at the League's compound in Newington. They met with a number of FCC staffers from the agency's Office of Engineering and Technology.
Paul, WA3VJB
Enjoying wholesome AM on the shortwave ham bands.


More information about the AMRadio mailing list

This page last updated 14 Dec 2017.