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FCC Rules Against Hams in BPL Decision

Agency says it has correctly balanced the needs of BPL providers while protecting ham bands from harmful interference

The FCC has upheld its Broadband over Power Line rules and rejected an appeal from ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, formerly known as the American Radio Relay League.

The commission said its previous decisions regarding BPL strike the right balance between the need to provide Access BPL technology, which has potential implications for broadband and “smart grid” users, while protecting incumbent radio services against harmful interference.

The agency this week denied the ARRL appeal, saying the amateur radio group raised no new arguments, nor proved previous FCC BPL decisions contained mistakes.

Access BPL devices are mounted on overhead or underground power lines. Amateur radio supporters have said since the BPL rules came out in 2004 that the RF emissions from the devices interfere with some ham frequencies. They wanted the BPL rules changed to adopt mandatory, full-time notch filtering, which means turning down the power, of all BPL systems operating on all ham bands below 30 MHz from 20 dB to 25 dB.

The FCC said throughout the proceeding and judicial appeal, that the ARRL has argued that more restrictive technical standards are needed to protect the amateur radio service from interference from BPL devices. “We have specifically rejected as unnecessary these repeated requests by ARRL for tighter emissions controls on Access BPL operations, more stringent interference mitigation measures and requirements for avoidance of BPL operations in the amateur bands,” notes the FCC in its decision.

ARRL CEO David Summer says in a story on the ARRL website he wasn’t surprised at the decision, “although some of the rhetoric” used by the agency “in continuing to defend its wrong-headed promotion of the flawed BPL technology is disappointing.”

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay agrees, saying for 10 years, the association has provided irrefutable technical evidence to the agency “proving harmful interference as it occurred at BPL deployments. Responsible BPL companies long ago demonstrated that it is possible to notch, at all times, all Amateur Radio bands to a reasonable notch depth between 25 and 35 dB, without any functional degradation of their systems.”

“The ARRL will continue to vigilantly guard against the abuse and pollution of the radio spectrum in the use of BPL technology on a case-by-case basis as necessary, wherever necessary,” states Imlay.