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FCC Fines Pennsylvania Man $18,000 for Failing to Allow Inspection of CB Station

05/15/2013

The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order (NAL) on May 14 in the amount of $18,000 to Nathaniel Johnson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for failing to make his Citizens Band (CB) station available for inspection by the FCC and for failing to comply with the restricted hours of CB station operation.

The FCC first received complaints in January 2012 concerning interference to telephone and television reception due to Johnson’s CB operation. In February 2012, agents from the FCC’s Philadelphia office went to Johnson’s house to conduct a station inspection, but no one answered the door. The next month, FCC agents sent Johnson a Warning Letter by both First Class and certified mail, directing him to contact the FCC within 10 days in order to schedule an inspection. According to the NAL, the Warning Letter also specified “that if the harmful interference continued, and arrangements were not made with the [FCC’s] Philadelphia Office to schedule an inspection, the Commission might impose restricted hours of operation for the CB station. Mr Johnson did not contact the Philadelphia Office to schedule an inspection as directed.”

The FCC continued to receive complaints from Johnson’s neighbors regarding interference coming from Johnson’s residence. The FCC issued Johnson another Warning Letter in June 2012, “directing him, his family, and any guests visiting him, not to operate any base or mobile CB radio transmitter from his residence or adjacent roadways between the hours of 8 AM and 11:30 PM (hereinafter referred to as ‘Quiet Hours’) until he contacted the FCC to make arrangements for an inspection of his CB radio facility and an inspection was completed. Mr Johnson was warned that a violation of the restriction could result in the imposition of a forfeiture.” Johnson did not respond to the Warning Letter.

After more interference complaints, the FCC issued yet another Warning Letter in June 2012, informing Johnson of the numerous complaints “and reminded him that the Quiet Hours restriction imposed in the May 14, 2012, letter remained in effect until he contacted the Philadelphia Office to schedule an inspection and an inspection is completed.” The letter commanded that Johnson contact the FCC within 10 calendar days to schedule an inspection “or face potential enforcement action, including the imposition of a forfeiture.” Again, Johnson did not respond to the Warning Letter.

FCC agents went to Johnson’s home in October 2012 to conduct an on-site station inspection “to confirm the source of interference to televisions and telephones in Mr Johnson’s neighborhood.” That morning (during the Quiet Hours period), agents were able to monitor multiple radio transmissions on the frequencies 27.025, 27.055 and 27.015 MHz. By using radio direction finding techniques, the FCC agents were able to confirm that transmissions were coming from a CB station at Johnson’s residence. The agents attempted to contact Johnson, knocking multiple times on the front door, but no one answered; however, transmissions on those frequencies stopped, “suggesting that Mr Johnson (or someone he designated) turned off the CB station while the agents were outside the residence. The agents left copies of the June 12 Warning Letter (on Mr Johnson’s front door, back door and in his mailbox) to remind him of the operational restrictions and the directive to immediately contact the [FCC’s] Philadelphia office to schedule an inspection.” As of the May 14, Johnson still has not contacted the FCC, and the Philadelphia office continues to receive interference complaints concerning his CB station.

The FCC noted that there is enough evidence to establish that Johnson violated Section 95.423 of the FCC’s rules: “If the FCC informs a CB operator that his or her station is causing interference for technical reasons, the operator must follow all instructions in the official FCC notice, including any request to make technical adjustments to equipment.” This section also requires that operators must comply with any restricted hours of CB station operation provided in the FCC’s official notice. Even after receiving notification from the FCC prohibiting CB operations during Quiet Hours, Johnson continued to operate and the FCC continued to receive interference complaints regarding interference from Johnson’s CB operations.

The FCC also found that Johnson repeatedly violated Section 303(n) of the Communications Act and Section 95.426(a) of the FCC’s rules. Section 303(n) states that the FCC has the “authority to inspect all radio installations associated with stations required to be licensed by any Act, or which the Commission by rule has authorized to operate without a license under [S]ection 307(e)(1).” This section specifically includes the Citizens Band Radio Service. Section 95.426(a) of the FCC’s rules states: “If an authorized FCC representative requests to inspect your CB station, you must make your CB station and records available for inspection.”

Pursuant to the FCC’s Forfeiture Policy Statement and Section 1.80 of its rules, the base forfeiture amount for failure to allow inspection of radio equipment -- including a CB station -- is $7000. “Although there is no base forfeiture amount in Section 1.80 of the [FCC’s] rules for failure to comply with a Commission directive prohibiting CB operations during specific hours, we find that the nature of the violation in this case is similar to a failure to respond to a Commission communication, which carries a base forfeiture amount of $4000,” the NAL stated. “In this case, we find that Mr Johnson’s failure to permit a lawful inspection of his CB station, after multiple notices directing him to do so, justifies a $7000 upward adjustment of the base amount for this violation. Applying the Forfeiture Policy Statement, Section 1.80 of the [FCC’s] rules, and the statutory factors to the instant case, we conclude that Mr Johnson is apparently liable for a total forfeiture in the amount of $18,000.”

The FCC noted that misconduct such as Johnson’s “is serious, exhibits contempt for the Commission’s authority, and threatens to compromise the Commission’s ability to fully investigate violations of its rules. As such, we caution Mr Johnson that a failure to schedule an inspection as directed in this NAL may result in the imposition of additional (and potentially higher) forfeitures, as well as other enforcement actions, as appropriate, including the seizure of his equipment.”

Johnson has until June 13 to pay the full amount of the proposed forfeiture or file a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture. He was also ordered to submit a written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, confirming compliance with the Quiet Hours restriction. The statement, due no later than June 28, must also specify an appropriate date and time when FCC agents can inspect his CB station.

 



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