Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Fri Jun 9 21:10:21 CDT 2006

Froom The ARRL Bulletin

The FCC has issued a Citation to Lakeland Electric, a municipally owned
utility in Lakeland, Florida, for violating Part 15 rules by interfering
with a local radio amateur. §15.5(c) of the FCC rules requires that the
operator of an "incidental radiator" must cease operating the device after
an FCC representative notifies the operator that the device is causing
harmful interference. The "incidental radiator" in this case is overhead
power lines. Under an agreement, the ARRL and the FCC cooperate in resolving
cases of line noise interference to Amateur Radio licensees.

"Power line noise continues to generate the bulk of interference complaints
that ARRL receives," says ARRL Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineer Mike
Gruber, W1MG, who says the League reviews hundreds of such complaints each
year. About half of them are resolved promptly by the utilities, in some
instances with assistance from the ARRL Laboratory. Gruber says he believes
this is the first time the FCC has issued a Citation to a utility in a case
involving power line interference to ham radio.

The radio amateur involved, J. C. Flynn, W4FGC, told ARRL that Lakeland
Electric has been good about fixing routine problems, but he doesn't think
the utility personnel know how to resolve cases of power line noise. "I have
been 10 years trying to get something done," he said, adding that the noise
affects all HF bands. "It is terrible!"

Flynn first noticed the power line noise around 1995. Subsequent complaints,
assurances from the utility that it was addressing the problem--or that it
couldn't find one--and even some FCC warnings followed before the FCC issued
its Citation to Lakeland Electric on May 16. Flynn, who's now 84, told the
League that as of June 7, nothing had been done to fix the severe line noise
at his location, which he demonstrated over the telephone on several bands.
He said he especially enjoys getting on 40 meter SSB with a large roundtable
of friends.

Commented Gruber: "There has been no activity by the utility in resolving
this problem in over a year, and Mr Flynn's noise case now appears to be at
a standstill." The League's involvement in the case goes back to January
2001, when Flynn requested the League's assistance. Gruber says the League's
role is to provide technical information and guidance to utilities "to keep
a complaint from reaching the point of a Citation."

In late 2005, Gruber had a chance to check the line noise at Flynn's QTH
firsthand. He had taken RFI gear to a Florida ham radio convention for a
talk and demonstration. Afterward, on his own time, Gruber--with help from
ARRL West Central Florida Section Manager Dee Turner, N4GD--took some noise
measurements of his own.

Gruber submitted the results of his on-site inspection to the FCC. Personnel
from the Commission's Tampa field office followed up with their own
inspection before issuing the Citation, which lays the groundwork for a
possible Notice of Apparent Liability proposing to fine the utility if the
interference problem is not resolved.

"I hope this case serves as a precedent for FCC enforcement, where
appropriate, in power line noise cases," said Gruber, who's compiled various
reports and correspondence relating to the Lakeland Electric power line
interference case into a booklet of approximately 60 pages. "While the
League will work with amateurs in such cases for as long as it takes," he
added, "we hope the FCC Citation will serve as a warning to electric
utilities that it's not acceptable to take months or years to fix the
problem causing the interference."

More information about the Tacos mailing list