Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Sat Jun 17 09:13:34 CDT 2006

>From the ARRL Newsletter
André  N4ICK


In two strongly worded letters, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has directed
the Manassas, Virginia, BPL system to take appropriate steps to eliminate
harmful interference to Amateur Radio operators. Several hams in the
Manassas area have complained, some repeatedly, about severe interference
from the BPL system, operated by COMTek on the city-owned power grid. The
FCC minced no words in detailing what it wants the city and BPL operator
COMTek to do to ensure its system complies with Part 15 rules governing BPL
systems and even hinted that it may shut down all or part of the system. One
of the FCC letters followed up on a complaint from Dwight Agnew, AI4II, of
BPL interference to his mobile operations.

FCC Spectrum Enforcement Division Chief Joseph Casey told the city and
COMTek June 16 that within 20 days he wants a "detailed report on the
actions you have taken and the progress you have made in resolving the
interference complaint or reducing the emissions in the area referenced in
Mr Agnew's complaint to 20 dB below the Part 15 limit," a level the FCC
maintains generally is sufficient to eliminate BPL interference to mobile
operations. Additionally, Casey said the Commission wants to know "the
specific steps you will take to inform customers of a cessation of service
in the event you are directed to cease operations, either in part or

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the League is "especially gratified" that
the Enforcement Bureau's Spectrum Enforcement Division has ordered the City
of Manassas to take steps to prepare for a cessation of BPL services.
"Clearly, the FCC has lost patience with COMTek's reliance on misleading
news releases as a substitute for meaningful solutions to the ongoing
interference," he said.

In an April 7 news release COMTek Vice President Walt Adams called the
Manassas BPL system "a real success story" and said its testing showed "an
almost identical" level of interference whether or not the system was in
operation. It made a similar claim to the FCC in Agnew's case.

COMTek has indicated it expects emissions can be reduced to 20 dB below the
Part 15 limit once second-generation BPL equipment is in place along the
Virginia Business Route 234 corridor by the end of July. Casey said that's
not good enough. "We note that a failure to respond until the end of July to
any complaint alleging harmful interference in an effort to determine if the
new equipment resolves the matter is not sufficient," he pointed out in a

Casey said Manassas and COMTek must address and "reach a resolution" with
regard to Agnew's interference complaint "as soon as practicable."

Based on the engineering reports the FCC received from the city and COMTek
in response to the Agnew complaint, Casey said, "it appears that the BPL
system is not in compliance with the Commission's emission requirements at
several frequencies," although none were in the amateur bands.

Manassas and COMTek must detail within 30 days steps taken to clean up the
system as well as any additional actions necessary for the system to remain
in compliance with Commission rules.

In a second letter, Casey requested Manassas and COMTek to examine and
address specific longstanding interference complaints from George Tarnovsky,
K4GVT; Donald Blasdell, W4HJL; Bill South, N3OH; Jack Cochran, WC4J, and
Arthur Whittum, W1CRO. Manassas and COMTek must "take appropriate remedial
steps to eliminate any instances of harmful interference" or reduce
emissions in the areas cited in the complaints to 20 dB below the Part 15
limit, he instructed. He also reiterated his call for system compliance.

Casey said the FCC wants a report within 30 days on steps taken to address
the five radio amateurs' specific interference complaints and eliminate
excessive emissions.

Tarnovsky said the complainants are encouraged by the FCC's response to
COMTek's reports and are looking forward to the results of the
Commission-directed testing.

"I think I can speak for all parties in saying that we're looking forward to
a BPL interference-free Manassas," he said.

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