ARRL

FCC enforcement involving electric utilities

FCC enforcement involving electric utilities

The FCC has been actively and effectively pursuing power-line noise interference complaints. Its process is designed to make good use of self regulation and cooperation by all involved parties. Most cases of power-line noise are resolved directly and effectively by power companies, eliminating the need for any ARRL or FCC assistance. In some cases, however, due to the lack of an effective or timely response by the involved utility, it is sometimes necessary to start the process of involving the FCC.  The first steps involve the ARRL, which provides the electric utility with information about the complaint and technical information on how to resolve it.  This private-sector process gives electric utility companies opportunity to resolve power line noise complaints in a way that is reasonably balanced against the difficulties of correctly and identifying power line noise, and scheduling repairs in a way that does not have a major impact on utility customers. Those cases that are not being addressed in a reasonable and timely fashion are then forwarded by the ARRL to the FCC, typically within a few months of having been initiated by the complainant.  Commission staff evaluate the complaint and it appears that power company equipment is involved, the FCC initiates an advisory letter to the utility, letting it know that the FCC has received a complaint, asking for information from the utility about its attempts at resolution and once again giving the utility an opportunity to resolve the interference and to work directly with the complainant and ARRL. If all of these efforts don't resolve a case, it is then referred to a local FCC field office for investigation. This can and does lead to formal FCC enforcement action, including Citations and specific requirements to utilities to resolve problems and to provide regular reporting on progress to the FCC.

This program is a good balance between private-sector and government involvement. It provides reasonable timetables that are longer than the amount of time given by the FCC to resolve other reported interference problems in recognition of the unique nature of power-line interference, where the identification of the correct source among multiple noise sources on power lines and scheduling various utility staff to perform their own part in the process can take time. ARRL stands ready to offer advice and encouragment at every step in the process. This program represents a model of how interference problems can be resolved effectively by the involved licensees, industry, organizations and government. 

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