FCC and Manassas BPL

Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Sat Dec 23 11:02:28 CST 2006


The FCC has told five Manassas, Virginia, radio amateurs that its testing
showed the city's BPL system complies with FCC Part 15 rules, and it
dismissed their interference complaints. The League is questioning the
Commission's conclusions, however. Six Manassas radio amateurs earlier this
year complained of BPL interference to their mobile operations. FCC
engineers took measurements at several locations in Manassas on October 25
and 26. Spectrum Enforcement Division Chief Kathryn S. Berthot reported the
results December 14.

"These measurements demonstrate that the Manassas BPL system is in
compliance with the radiated emission limits specified in Section 15.611(b)
of the Commission's rules at the two sites in areas we tested where
emissions appear to be the highest," Berthot wrote, adding that the
measurements showed the system is notching at 20 dB or greater to protect
the 40-meter band. "Accordingly, based on the results of our investigation,
we conclude that the Manassas BPL system is in compliance with the FCC's
requirements, and the complaints are hereby dismissed." BPL proponent The
United Power Line Council called the letter "complete and total vindication"
of the Manassas BPL system.

Not so fast, says ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, who responded
December 21 on behalf of the League and the complainants
<http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/BPL-Manassas-2006-12-21.pdf>. Imlay
maintained that Berthot's letter raises more questions than it answers.
Because the "alleged testing" took place in the presence of BPL operator
COMTek and equipment maker Main.net but without the complainants, Imlay
said, there's no independent means to evaluate the FCC's conclusions.

"In ARRL's view, the Commission owes the complainants a far more
comprehensive response to their two-year-old complaints than what is set
forth in the terse and uninformative dismissal letter," Imlay wrote. Copies
of his letter went to the five FCC commissioners and to the complainants.
One complainant, George Tarnovsky, K4GVT, says neither he nor the other five
complainants was alerted to the planned FCC testing. The others are Donald
"Butch" Blasdell, W4HJL; William South, N3OH; Arthur Whittum, W1CRO; Jack
Cochran, WC4J, and Dwight Agnew, AI4II. 

Imlay says Berthot's December 14 letter overlooks Whittum's May 2006
interference complaint, and, because of that, Whittum's complaint "remains
pending and unadjudicated." Beyond that, Imlay contended, the Amateur Radio
complainants, as FCC licensees, deserve better treatment and protection from
the FCC.

Because the Commission -- and especially OET -- has exhibited "an
overwhelming and obvious bias in favor of BPL" and "done everything possible
to deny or obfuscate the substantial interference potential of BPL" on HF,
Imlay wrote, the League is unwilling to accept what he called "the
unsupported conclusions" in Berthot's letter. Those conclusions, he noted,
vary substantially with the complainants' own observations and measurements,
verified by the ARRL Laboratory staff.

Among other things, the League wants to know if any of the complainants were
notified prior to the FCC's October testing, whether the OET is "routinely
involved" in enforcement-related field measurements, when COMTek and
Main.net learned of the planned testing, precisely where the FCC tested and
how it determined the sites and the system's status during the tests --
including system loading. In addition, the League requested technical
details of the testing, including measured emission levels. 

Imlay says the Amateur Radio complainants "have been stonewalled by the City
and COMTek, and now they have been stonewalled by the Commission, after
waiting patiently for two years for some action." If the FCC seriously
intends to claim that the Manassas system complies with the rules, he
continued, it "must be willing to provide the information necessary to
support its dismissal order with documentation that is objectively

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