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 [email protected].

One Response to “RFI … Radio Spectrum’s Global Warming?”

  • Don Pritchard, W6ZPC:

    As an AM radio broadcaster and ham I am deeply concerned by this. Our station is losing listeners because of the noise floor and unfamiliarity with AM reception techniques. Not too long ago a woman called to ask why we had left the air. We hadn’t. I asked her for specifics about her radio. It was the usual clock radio. I asked if she had moved it recently. She had. I asked her to rotate the radio 90 degrees and she did, and the station suddenly reappeared. She was amazed. In my own situation I had never been able to hear our station on my bedside clock radio because of its proximity to the cable box. Relocating the cable box restored my reception. I am still trying to track down the source of interference which runs about S-9 across the entire AM broadcast band and up to about 5.0 mHz. Our radio station is seeking authority to install an FM translator to overcome the AM interference. Of course, reducing the interference is the real solution, so I hope the FCC gets serious about this.

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