RFI … Radio Spectrum’s Global Warming?

courtesy: http://www.arrl.org/utilities

The FCC's recent publication of an Order and Consent Decree (DA-17-471) has me wondering if this action signals new interest in cracking-down on those who manufacture and distribute unapproved spectrum polluting noise-generating devices or is it just a once-in-awhile muscle flex with little change in overall policy ... hopefully it's the former!

Highlights of the agreed upon notice:

Section 302 of the Act authorizes the Commission to promulgate reasonable regulations to minimize harmful interference by equipment that emits radio frequency energy....Specifically....that “[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations....

.... the Commission establishes technical requirements for transmitters and other equipment to minimize their potential for causing interference to authorized radio services ... the Commission administers an equipment authorization program to ensure that equipment reaching the market in the
United States complies with the technical and administrative requirements set forth in the Commission’s rules. The equipment authorization program requires, among other things, that radio frequency devices must be tested for compliance with the applicable technical requirements in accordance with one of three authorization procedures—i.e., certification, Declaration of Conformity, or verification—prior to marketing.


... the Rules prohibits the marketing of radio frequency devices unless the device has first been properly authorized, identified, and labeled in accordance with the Rules ...


... a privately-held company that manufactures and distributes lighting fixtures that are used in residential and commercial properties ... under-cabinet LED light fixtures were reportedly causing interference to AM/FM radio transmissions. 

During the course of the investigation, the evidence revealed that ... the LED light fixtures were not tested and authorized under the Commission’s equipment authorization rules prior to marketing.

... the Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division issued a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) ... directing to submit a sworn written response to a series of questions relating to ... the marketing of its LED lighting fixtures in the United States.

... continued to market the light fixtures at issue for certain times during an approximately five-month period after receipt of the LOI.

Other highlights indicate that the company in question acknowledged their violation and agreed to appoint a Compliance Officer in charge of implementing new company protocols, including the retraining and education of employees dealing with compliance issues. As well, a $90,000 civil penalty was imposed on the company for the violation.

As a point of interest, I can't ever recall seeing similar notifications being released or reported here in Canada by our FCC equivalent, the ISEDC. Hopefully they also take similar actions, but if so, they don't seem to be reporting it ... perhaps I'm just not looking in the proper places.

As I've mentioned here previously, for too many radio amateurs, the growing noise floor throughout the radio spectrum has become a global threat for the healthy pursuit of our hobby. Even if we saw the immediate  implementation of rigorous new tight standards, crackdowns and prosecutions of offenders, it may already be too late to reverse the damage we are now seeing ... in many respects, it's the 'global warming' of the RF spectrum and there may be no turning back without immediate action.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at ve7sl@shaw.ca.

3 Responses to “RFI … Radio Spectrum’s Global Warming?”

  • Moe K2JDM:

    I have read too many articles about the problems that the EU is having with NOISE from various manufactured items that are causing problems with RF Interference. What England ended up with was their commission who monitors interference allowing more interference rather than trying to control and put an end to it. It would be like California allowing more Smog rather than make the cars run cleaner. That’s going in the wrong direction.

  • Clive GM4FZH:

    Sadly the problem appears to be getting worse in the UK (includes England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland). The government has been so penny pinching with their austerity measures many staff capable of doing the necessary work have been got rid of and regulations relaxed for companies to make maximum profits irrespective of the quality of goods on sale. For those in urban (and other areas) the noise created by fast broadband is intolerable (many cases S8+) because the government will not enforce the notching facility that should be in operation. Sad isn’t it when profit motive is the only driving force!

  • David WB4ONA:

    Another case of Big Government regulation doing NOTHING, but eating up your hard-earned tax dollars 🙁

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