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Iowa Man Faces Pirate Radio Fine

He told the FCC yes, he’d installed the gear, but other people ran the station

Thomas Costa faces a $10,000 fine for operating an FM signal illegally in Iowa City, Iowa. The FCC has issued a notice of apparent liability saying he ran a transmitter on 87.9 MHz.

Signals in excess of 100 μV/m field strength at three meters are not allowed in that spectrum. Agents from the commission’s Kansas City office checked out a complaint last month and traced the signal to an antenna on a residence. Accompanied by the property owner they found a non-certified FM transmitter in a locked basement room, fed with automated audio from a computer.The owner said Costa rented the basement room.

The FCC then interviewed Costa, who told them that he did indeed rent the room and install the radio equipment; but he denied operating the unlicensed station. He said several unnamed individuals owned the gear and gave him rent money, which he gave to the property owner in turn as rent.

“Mr. Costa asserted that the alleged operators of the station did not provide him with their names or contact information in order to protect him and them from the commission,” according to the NAL. “Mr. Costa also stated that he was told by the unnamed operators that he could expect the commission to inspect the station at some point and order him to cease operations.”

In its notice, the FCC staff found that under federal law, Costa can be said to have operated the station because he exercised control over its general conduct or management despite his claim that unnamed individuals were the ones running it.

The commission also was not convinced by the story about other people being involved. “We find it implausible that Mr. Costa (or anyone for that matter) would install radio equipment, rent space, allow for unlawful operations in the rented space, and incur potential financial and other liability on behalf of complete strangers.”