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FCC Cites Auto Dealership for Causing Harmful Interference to Cell Phone Site


The FCC Enforcement Bureau called on a North Dakota auto dealership “to stop operating devices that are causing interference to licensed radio operations and to comply with federal rules and regulations related to radio frequency devices.” The Bureau release a Citation and Order on January 9, to Lithia Toyota of Grand Forks. The case stems from interference to a nearby Verizon Wireless site that has been emanating from the dealership’s outdoor lighting.

“Specifically, Lithia is being cited for operating industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) equipment and causing harmful interference in violation of Sections 18.111(b) and 18.115(a) of the Commission’s rules,” the Bureau said in the citation. The Enforcement Bureau said the dealership “should take immediate steps to come into compliance with the Commission’s rules, including eliminating the interference.”

The case dates back to April 2016, when Verizon Wireless complained to the FCC of radio emissions causing interference to a Verizon 700-MHz LTE cell site in Grand Forks. Verizon noticed that the interference appeared to correspond with the outdoor portal lighting schedule of the nearby dealership, and it subsequently contacted a representative of Lithia Toyota, which agreed to leave the portal lighting off for one evening. Verizon said that resulted in a “considerable noise floor drop.” Verizon contacted the FCC after Lithia failed to take corrective action, the FCC Citation recounted.

A March 2017 visit by an FCC field agent confirmed that the interference was coming from the dealership’s portal lighting, which employed Philips model QL55W/840 induction lighting devices. The Enforcement Bureau’s Denver Office issued a warning to Lithia Toyota, informing the dealership that it was operating an RF radiating device, an unintentional radiator, that was causing harmful interference to radio communications. The letter stated that the RF energy emanating from the device was detected between 776-787 MHz, frequencies reserved for cellular operation.

Although the dealership orally agreed to make a good faith effort to resolve the problem, a conference call with Lithia and Verizon representatives last June 28 confirmed that the interference still had not been resolved.

The FCC noted in the Citatin that the RF lighting devices at issue are ISM equipment regulated under Part 18 of the Commission’s rules, which compel the operator to “promptly take whatever steps may be necessary to eliminate the interference.”

“Based on the foregoing evidence, we find that Lithia has violated Sections 18.111(b) and 18.115(a) of the Commission’s rules by failing to promptly eliminate the interference,” the FCC said. Lithia has 30 days to provide a report to indicate corrective actions it has taken or will take to eliminate the problem.

The FCC said failure to take action to resolve the interference could result in fines of up to $16,000 per day.



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