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Mr. Bethany, Take Down These Lights!

FCC tells hair salon to fix its fluorescents

A San Antonio hair salon must fix its fluorescent lights.

So says the FCC.

If that seems an odd juxtaposition, read on.

Perfect Cuts Salon received a citation from the commission for “operating incidental radiators.” Its lights apparently were causing interference to an AT&T cell site next door.

The citation reads like a case of pirate radio hunting: The Enforcement Bureau used direction-finding techniques to locate the source of transmissions on 705 MHz, then used a spectrum analyzer and handheld antenna to confirm that the signals were emanating from the overhead fluorescents in the salon. The owner, Ronald Bethany, said AT&T had already visited and confirmed that his lighting was the source of interference to its cell site.

According to the commission summary, the owner said he had tried to get General Electric, which makes the lights, to replace them without success; but the FCC says GE actually did offer to replace the lights, and that Bethany wanted cash instead and turned GE down. Then, when the FCC agent called the salon back, Bethany said he saw no reason to repair the lights unless he was paid to do so — again, according to the commission.

The FCC directed the salon to describe steps it has taken to fix the interference within 30 days, or to otherwise reply. It said the owner would face further sanctions if he didn’t.

An incidental radiator, in FCC parlance, is a device that generates radiofrequency energy during operation although not intentionally designed to generate or emit RF energy.

At the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, attorney Mitchell Lazarus has blogged about this case. “Radio interference from non-radio devices has been popping up lately,” he writes. He cites another lighting fixture case from a few months ago involving 4G frequencies, “and before that, a problem with a well pump” Read his comments here.