Manassas BPL Shutdown "Imperative" says ARRL

Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Sat Jan 21 08:05:30 CST 2006


After the operator of the Manassas, Virginia, BPL system failed to meet its
own commitment to resolve complaints of interference to local radio
amateurs, the ARRL again demanded the system's immediate shutdown. Writing
on the League's behalf, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, told the FCC
January 17 that Communications Technologies (COMTek), which operates the BPL
system over the municipally owned electric power grid using
equipment on frequencies between 4 MHz and 30 MHz, "has been given every
opportunity" over the past 18 months to resolve interference complaints.

COMTek "is now apparently unwilling to voluntarily comply with its
regulatory obligation to shut the system down," Imlay said, following a
meeting January 17 between company officials and local radio amateurs. An
ARRL representative also attended. Imlay said the meeting's outcome dictates
"the urgency of the Commission's obligation to finally take action to stop
the unlawful operation of the Manassas BPL system."

The League asserts that COMTek did not want to start the meeting with a
local newspaper reporter present. Imlay said the company's "bizarre action"
indicated that COMTek "was unwilling to subject itself to public scrutiny."

COMTek Vice President Walter Adams acknowledged at this week's meeting that
its BPL system was causing harmful interference on Amateur Radio
frequencies, despite its pledge to permanently notch ham bands by January
15, the League said. Even so, Adams "specifically declined to take any
further steps to mitigate the interference," Imlay continued, calling
COMTek's stance "totally unacceptable to the aggrieved licensees in

In its letter, the League said it doesn't question COMTek's desire to
eliminate the harmful interference. "However, the inescapable fact is that
the hardware now in use in the city's BPL system is, and has been
proven, incapable of being configured so as to function as intended without
causing harmful interference to radio communication."

The League addressed its latest correspondence in the Manassas situation to
FCC Spectrum Enforcement Division Chief Joseph Casey and to Katherine Power,
an attorney in the division. Copies went to local radio amateurs George
Tarnovsky, K4GVT, Donald Blasdell, W4HJL, and William South, N3OH, as well
as to Manassas Journal newspaper reporter Jaclyn Pitts, COMTek and its
attorneys, and the City of Manassas.

"Because COMTek has declined to do so voluntarily, it is imperative that the
FCC order the system immediately to cease operation, in accordance with
§15.5(c) of the Commission's rules," Imlay's letter concluded, "and that
operation not resume unless and until new hardware is installed that is
capable of operating without causing harmful interference."

Less than a month ago, the League called on the FCC to shut down the
Manassas BPL system in another strongly worded letter. That communication
was in response to a November 30 letter from Casey, who'd suggested further
cooperation between the complaining radio amateurs and the city-owned BPL

"These meetings have not produced any solution to the interference problem
but have, instead, created the illusion that the problem is being
addressed," Imlay charged in his reply. Ham radio complaints of interference
from the BPL system date back to early 2004.

A petition the League filed earlier last fall seeks to have the FCC modify
the Part 15 BPL rules it adopted in 2004 to embrace more mature BPL
technology with substantially less potential to interfere. Among BPL systems
more likely to be involved in stubborn interference cases, the ARRL said,
are those using DS2 or technology that lack fixed, permanent
notches in the ham bands. Utilization of such BPL technology, the League
maintains, has resulted in "substantial, extremely difficult-to-resolve
incidents of interference" from BPL pilot programs and deployments to
Amateur Radio.

A copy of the League's January 17 letter is on the ARRL Web site

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