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FCC Hands Ham Operator $25k Fine

Levy includes $22k plus an upward adjustment of $3k for continued interference

Ham radio operators who violate the rules are on the Enforcement Bureau’s radar. That’s doubly so for those that continue to do so after being warned by Enforcement Bureau agents about their activities.

Consider one of the Federal Communication Commission’s most recent amateur radio fines, which was levied against licensee William F. Crowell of Diamond Springs, Calif. The commission handed down a $25,000 fine to Crowell for violating the Communications Act and in the FCC Rules by intentionally causing interference to other amateur radio operators and transmitting prohibited communications, including music, the commission said.

Following up on several complaints of interference, primarily from members of the Western Amateur Radio Friendship Association (WARFA), on Aug. 25 of this year, agents from the bureau’s Western Region used mobile-direction-finding techniques to identify the source of radio transmissions on 3908 kHz, the frequency used by the WARFA net. During this investigation, the agency also used the High Frequency Direction Finding Center — a division within the FCC that locates interference sources — to help determine the source of the transmissions. 

They pinpointed the source at Crowell’s residence, monitored transmissions for approximately two hours, and heard Crowell frequently transmit on top of other amateurs participating on the WARFA net with noises, recordings and transmissions that included racial, ethnic and sexual slurs and epithets. The transmissions continued until the WARFA net ceased its operations. Agents again monitored the same frequency on Aug. 27 with similar results.

The following day, Crowell was contacted by agents and warned that his transmissions were violating the Communications Act and FCC Rules. Crowell acknowledged that he was transmitting the night before, but asserted verbally and in writing that playing recordings did not violate the rules and that he had no intention of stopping such transmissions.

But the commission found that Crowell did indeed willfully and repeatedly violate Section 333 of the act and sections of the rules by intentionally causing interference to other amateur radio operators and transmitting prohibited communications.

The commission handed Crowell a fairly steep fine: $11,000 for each day of the interference and unauthorized emissions observed by the agents, and an upward adjustment of $3,000 because Crowell continued to interfere with the WARFA net two days later after being warned about his operation by Western Region agents. He has 30 days to submit payment or file a statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the fine.