NASWA Journal Columns · Technical Topics

Joe Buch, N2JB • P.O. Box 1552 • Ocean View, DE 19970-01552 joseph.buch◊dol.net

Technical Topics, September 2005

BPL: Some Good News?

Over the past couple of years this column has reported on NASWA’s effort to head off interference from Broadband over Power Line (BPL) technology to shortwave reception. NASWA filed comments with the FCC pointing out the danger that this technology posed for the shortwave broadcast listener. Most of NASWA’s recommendations to the FCC were ignored as the Commission charged ahead with its preconceived conclusion that BPL was the answer to increasing competition in the broadband access universe.

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Technical Topics, December 2004

FCC Publishes BPL Report and Order

That thud you just heard was the other shoe dropping. An anonymous wag once said, “The devil is in the details.” After reviewing the FCC’s Report and Order on BPL, it is clear that the devil is alive and well and living at the FCC.

NASWA, individual shortwave listeners and radio amateurs for that matter had most of their BPL comments ignored or rejected by the FCC. About the best thing that can be said is that the FCC did acknowledge international broadcasting as a licensed service and at least did read NASWA’s comments. On a positive note, the FCC will move ahead with a national database of BPL operators with interference complaint contact points by telephone and e-mail. BPL operators are required to notch certain frequencies to mitigate harmful interference and as a last resort to shut down equipment causing interference. Beyond that there is little good news.

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Technical Topics, November 2004

FCC Approves BPL Rules

On October 14, 2004 the FCC voted unanimously to issue rules to govern the deployment and operation of broadband power line (BPL) transmission systems. Even though those rules are as yet to be finalized and published, the FCC plunged ahead in their relentless campaign to see to it that BPL is given a firm nudge by the government in spite of many demonstrations that BPL technology will disrupt reception of shortwave broadcasting and amateur radio services.

The FCC said to their engineering folks that they trusted the final rules would provide a viable mechanism for resolving interference complaints from radio amateurs. Nothing was said about protecting the rights of citizens and visitors to access foreign broadcasts beamed to the USA.

We haven’t seen a railroad operation like this since the great golden spike was plunged into the sands of Utah a century and a half ago. The FCC cheerleaders were not deterred by over six thousand comments filed in opposition to the concept.

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Technical Topics, August 2004

BPL Update

Not in my backyard! That was the central theme of most of the entities that filed comments with the FCC opposing the deployment of BPL on HF and VHF frequencies in the USA.

In a process that began over a year ago, thousands of users of the HF and low VHF spectrum weighed in on BPL. Most of those making comments were amateur radio operators, but all users of HF including SWLs were represented.

The formal FCC comment process has now ended and it is up to the commissioners to decide what to do next. Do they charge ahead knowing it will be impossible to stuff BPL back into Pandora’s box? Do they regroup and tighten Part 15 regulations? Do they protect one service while dumping BPL interference on frequencies used by services perceived as being less important or less vulnerable? The answer should soon be known.

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Technical Topics, June 2004

NASWA Files BPL NPRM Comments

By the time you read this column, the FCC will likely have closed the reply comment-filing window on the BPL NPRM. Barring an extension by the FCC, reply comments were due to the FCC by June 1.

For the historical record here are comments as filed by NASWA on May 3, 2004:

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Technical Topics, May 2004

NASWA To File BPL NPRM Comments

As this issue of the NASWA Journal goes to press, NASWA is getting ready to submit its comments to the FCC on the BPL NPRM, ET docket 04-37. Comments are due by May 3. If you have not yet filed, there are three requests for time extension currently being considered by the FCC so you may still have time. BPL is currently being deployed under existing Part 15 rules. Hopefully the points in the draft NASWA response will help you formulate your own response. There is strength in numbers. The FCC thinks only hams are worried. Be a squeaky wheel and maybe you can help us get some grease.

International Agreements

The FCC is required to observe the rights of other nations to broadcast directly, without interference, to listeners in the United States on frequencies allocated by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) exclusively for this purpose. The United States is a member of the ITU, an international organization within the United Nations system and a signator to its most recent radio regulation convention.

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Technical Topics, March 2004

FCC To Issue Proposed BPL Rules

On February 12 the FCC voted unanimously to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to eventually allow full-scale deployment of BPL in the United States. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the FCC has apparently heard the outcry of users of the short-wave spectrum and has proposed procedures to mitigate interference.

In spite of warnings expressed by entities like FEMA, NTIA, ARRL, NASWA and thousands of individuals, the FCC cheerleaders for BPL technology have decided to charge ahead. Instead of proposing a reduction in Part 15 limits as NASWA requested in its comments, the FCC is proposing to leave the unintentional radiation restrictions as they currently are. The FCC instead proposes placing the burden on licensed services to take action when they experience interference. The good news is that they did not propose to raise the limits at this time as some BPL advocates desired.

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Technical Topics, January 2004

FEMA Supports Shortwave Listeners

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has filed comments with the FCC, supporting the position of NASWA. FEMA is opposed to deployment of broadband Internet access via power lines (BPL). FEMA’s ability to use the HF spectrum is regulated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Like NASWA, FEMA recommends that Part 15 signal level limits be tightened instead of being relaxed, “FEMA believes and recommends that Part 15 of the FCC rules and regulations should be strengthened to ensure that there will be no increase in interference levels to existing communications systems which are licensed by the FCC or authorized by the NTIA.”

FEMA is an organizational element of the Department of Homeland Security. Because FEMA’s mission concerns public safety, their opposition to BPL should carry plenty of weight with the FCC and provide powerful grounds for an appeal to the Congress if the FCC chooses to ignore FEMA’s and NASWA’s concerns.

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Technical Topics, December 2003

Anti-BPL Forces Muster For Battle

On November 7, 2003 the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsored a meeting of various organizations that had previously expressed at least a cautionary posture to BPL regarding the FCC’s Notice Of Inquiry 03-104. The National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC hosted the meeting. I represented NASWA and the interests of the entire shortwave listener community. The ARRL has published their summary of the meeting in the ARRL Letter, Vol. 22, No. 45, November 14, 2003. Quoted statements in this article are from that letter. You can access that letter via the ARRL web site at: http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter/.

Here are some observations from my personal notes.

One would think, that with the future of shortwave broadcasting in North America at stake, companies whose sales depend in large measure on shortwave radio would have been well represented. Only Yaesu, of all the receiver manufacturers and retailers, was present and ably represented by Chip Margelli. He is with the Engineering/R&D Department of Vertex Standard’s Amateur Division and traveled from California to make important contributions to the discussion. However, Icom, MFJ, Sangean, Kenwood, Eton Corp. (Grundig North America), Grove Enterprises, and Passport To World Band Radio were invited to attend but for one reason or another did not show.

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Technical Topics, October 2003

Reply To NASWA BPL Comments

A reply comment was submitted to the FCC that addressed the NASWA comments filed with the FCC on June 30. The reply makes some good points, but in my opinion overestimates the utility of the 30-47 MHz range for over-the-horizon communications. I am presenting the author’s comments here verbatim in order to provide an independent perspective which will help you better understand the interference issues associated with the BPL technology.

The following is a set of reply comments from Nickolaus E. Leggett, an amateur radio operator (Extra Class licensee – call sign N3NL), inventor (U.S. Patents # 3,280,929 and 3,280,930 and one electronics invention patent application pending), and a certified electronics technician (ISCET and NARTE). I also have a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the Johns Hopkins University (May 1970).

These comments are reply comments to the comments submitted by the North American Shortwave Association (NASWA).

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