ARRL : Inaction by FCC about BPL Court Ruling

andre kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Fri Mar 6 16:09:43 CST 2009


On February 25 -- 10 months to the day that the US Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit released its decision on the ARRL's
Petition for Review of the FCC's Orders adopting rules governing
broadband over power line (BPL) systems
<> -- ARRL
General Counsel, Chris Imlay, W3KD, sent a letter to FCC Acting Chairman
Michael Copps, requesting that the Commission "revisit the BPL rules
without further delay, and to comply with the obligations placed on it
by the Court"
<>. In its
April 2008 decision, the Court agreed with the ARRL on two major points
and remanded the rules to the Commission. According to Imlay, "to date,
literally nothing has been done by the Commission to comply with these

In its 2008 ruling, the Court did not vacate the Commission's 2004 BPL
rules. Imlay said that the ARRL did not request the Court do so, as the
current Part 15 rules governing BPL, "inadequate though they are, were
slightly preferable to the general application of the Part 15 rules to
BPL systems in terms of interference prevention." Imlay said that the
FCC's "inaction" since the remand has "served neither BPL deployment,
nor Amateur Radio, well."

Imlay pointed out to Copps that without such rules protecting the
Amateur Radio Service, Amateur Radio operators have no protection from
the interference from BPL systems: "While there are configurations of
BPL systems which can adequately reduce the probability of interference
ex ante and without significant constraints on BPL deployment, the
current BPL rules do not mandate the use of these interference
prevention mechanisms."

The Court demanded two things from the FCC in its ruling: release the
redacted studies that the Commission relied on for its BPL findings, and
provide a "reasoned justification" for an extrapolation factor of 40 dB
per decade, or adopt another factor and provide a reasoned explanation
for it.

Regarding the redacted studies, the Court ordered the Commission to
"make available for notice and comment the unredacted 'technical studies
and data that it has employed in reaching [its] decisions' [with respect
to BPL]...and shall make them part of the rulemaking record." The FCC
used five substantially redacted field studies that the Commission's
Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) staff conducted of BPL field
trials. To date, these unredacted studies have not been released.

The Court also ordered the FCC to "either provide a reasonable
justification for retaining an extrapolation factor of 40 dB per decade
for access BPL systems sufficient to indicate that it has grappled with
the 2005 studies, or adopt another factor and provide a reasoned
explanation for it." The 2005 studies refer to those conducted by the
Office of Communications, the FCC's counterpart in the United Kingdom.
The ARRL submitted these studies to the Court, along with the League's
own analysis showing that an extrapolation factor closer to 20 dB per
decade was more appropriate, as part of the record in its petition for
reconsideration of the FCC's BPL Order. The Court said that the FCC
"summarily dismissed" this data in a manner that "cannot substitute for
a reasoned explanation." The Court also noted that the record in the FCC
proceeding included a study by the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration that "itself casts doubt on the Commission's

The extrapolation factor pertains to the rate at which radiated
emissions from power lines carrying access BPL decay with distance from
the power lines, and therefore the extent to which the radiated energy
from the lines can interfere with licensed radio services, such as
Amateur Radio.

Imlay said that since its 2004 rulemaking in Docket 04-37
BPL technology has "evolved," and the opportunity now presents itself to
craft revised BPL rules that address the "actual interference potential
of BPL systems while enabling BPL as a broadband delivery or grid
management technology." He reminded Copps that eight months ago, ARRL
President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, and ARRL Chief Executive Officer David
Sumner, K1ZZ, met with representatives from the FCC's OET with a plan
for BPL. "The revised regulations suggested by ARRL would be sufficient
to reduce the potential interference to the point that it would be
practical to address such instances on a case-by-case basis," Imlay
said. "Compliance is achievable with present BPL technology without
significant limitation on BPL deployment."

Calling the Commission "long overdue" in complying with the Court's
"very clear and specific" instructions, Imlay said that the Commission's
inaction "cannot be allowed to continue. It is necessary to commence
further proceedings in ET Docket 04-37 after making the requisite
disclosures, and we respectfully urge the Commission to do so without
further delay."

Imlay reminded Copps that on his inauguration day earlier this year,
President Barack Obama placed a series of goals on the White House Web
site. "Among these," Imlay said, "was the following: 'Restore Scientific
Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that
government decisions should be based on the best-available,
scientifically valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions.'
The Commission has the opportunity to implement this goal in this Docket

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