Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Fri Jul 6 23:44:16 CDT 2007

==> FCC Responds to ARRL's BPL Brief 

On Monday, July 2, the FCC filed its reply brief with the US Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The FCC attempted to rebut
the ARRL's challenge to the FCC's Broadband over Power Line (BPL) rules
enacted in late 2004 and affirmed by the agency in 2006. According to
ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, "The FCC's brief does not
accurately describe ARRL's arguments concerning harmful interference." 

Given what is in essence a 100 percent probability of interference from
BPL systems to fixed and mobile HF facilities at significant distances
from power lines, Imlay said Section 301 of the Communications Act does
not allow unlicensed BPL systems to operate in the HF bands. "Basically,
Section 301 says you can not operate a radio frequency emitting device
without a license. The legislative purpose of Section 301 is clearly to
avoid interference. FCC's Part 15 rules have assumed that certain very
low power devices and systems can operate without predictable
interference, thus allowing them to operate without a license,
notwithstanding Section 301. But with BPL, the FCC has ignored
conclusive record evidence which shows that there will be, and in fact
our experience conclusively demonstrates, that BPL causes severe
interference to licensed services," Imlay said.

The FCC claims that it has the authority to permit unlicensed BPL under
Section 302 of the Act; this section allows the FCC to regulate the
interference potential of RF devices. What Section 302 does not do,
Imlay said, is to create a loophole in, or modify, or invalidate Section

"It is the ARRL's position," Imlay said, "that the FCC can regulate and
authorize BPL with certain safeguards, consistent with the terms of
Section 301; however, the FCC simply cannot honestly maintain the
position that BPL has an inherently low interference potential. It has a
high interference potential, and the rules they have enacted to date are
woefully inadequate and insufficient to address it." The ARRL has long
maintained that BPL, when not adequately "notched," causes harmful
interference to Amateur Radio operations. In its brief, the FCC claims
BPL does not cause significant interference and the Courts must defer to
the FCC's expertise to decide this issue.

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, said, "The FCC
misrepresents the ARRL's position as being that the FCC has no authority
to allow unlicensed devices that pose any risk whatsoever of causing
interference to licensed services. That's not our position at all. Our
position is that the FCC possessed clear evidence, at the time it made
its BPL decisions, that the limits it was adopting would allow the
deployment of BPL systems with a near-100 percent probability of causing
harmful interference to radio receivers hundreds of feet from the power
lines. Yet, despite this evidence it characterized the likelihood of
harmful interference as 'low.'"

The brief goes on to say that, in the FCC's view, mobile stations and
fixed stations are protected against harmful interference from BPL. But
with respect to mobile stations complaining of interference, the FCC
requires only that BPL operators reduce the radiated emission levels to
20 dB below the Part 15 maximum levels for radiated emissions. This, in
the HF bands, still permits BPL noise at levels that preclude
communications entirely. It offers mobile stations no protection
whatsoever, Imlay stated. 

Sumner explained, "The FCC claims that it continues to protect mobile
stations from harmful interference, but it does so simply by defining
whatever interference a mobile station might encounter from a notched
BPL system as not harmful! None of the steps to limit the interference
potential of BPL systems that the FCC took in this rulemaking proceeding
reduce the likelihood of interference to the amateur service, and to
this day the FCC has declined to enforce its rules even when protracted
violations and interference have been documented."

The FCC's brief also attempted to justify its presumption that a BPL
radiated interfering signal decays at a rate of 40 dB per decade of
distance. "A 'decade of distance' is a factor of 10," Imlay explained.
"For example, if a victim receiver moves from 3-30 feet from the power
lines (10 times farther away), that is one decade of distance. For each
decade of distance, the FCC believes that there is a 40 dB signal decay.
In the HF bands, however, the evidence in the record shows that the
signal decay is closer to 20 dB than 40 dB per decade of distance from
the power lines. The FCC's brief claimed that there was conflicting
evidence on the subject, but ARRL's view is that the FCC merely avoided
consideration of the overwhelming evidence favoring the more
conservative decay factor."

Imlay said the ARRL has asked the Court to order the FCC to "rethink the
rules governing BPL and for the first time to take into account the
evidence on the record concerning harmful interference to Amateur
Radio." ARRL's reply brief is due for filing with the Court July 28,
2007. There is no date set yet for oral argument before the three-judge
panel in Washington, DC.

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