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Calif. Ham Must Pay FCC Fine in FM Case

Ragan wins partial reduction in penalty amount

Even though he said he had no malicious intent, ham radio operator Brian Ragan, KF6EGI, in Suisun City, Calif., will have to pay an FCC fine for making unlicensed FM broadcasts and not opening his door to the FCC. The commission has upheld an earlier ruling, though it reduced the amount of his penalty.

In 2012 the commission traced signals on 104.9 MHz to Ragan’s garage. Agents heard the station identify itself on the air as KBRS. According to its account at the time, the agents tried to inspect but no one answered. Ragan later told the FCC he’d been afraid to open the door when he heard them identify themselves as being with the agency’s Enforcement Bureau. He also admitted to having operated the FM for six months, according to the FCC account.

This led to a notice of apparent liability for $17,000 for operating an unlicensed station and failing to allow FCC personnel to inspect. Ragan didn’t contest the facts but appealed, saying that he’d had no malicious intent and saying he had immediately complied with the notice of unlicensed operation. (Ragan also submitted a written statement, as required, stating that he is in compliance with Section 301 and no longer engaged in unauthorized operation.)

The FCC now has confirmed most of its finding against Ragan — “the commission need not demonstrate an intent to violate a rule to make a finding that a licensee engaged in willful misconduct,” for example — but it reduced the fine to $13,600 because of his history of compliance as an amateur licensee.

But it reiterated that, as a licensed ham for at least six years, Ragan should be aware that, among other things, radio equipment at his station must be made available for inspection when requested by the FCC.