Power-Line Noise FAQ


  • Instructions

    If you have an an active power line case and would like ARRL to help you, it is important that you first spend the time to read all of the information on this page and the links it points to.


    Please understand, the ARRL does have any authority to enforce FCC Rules under federal law. Only the FCC is empowered to enforce its rules in the United States. The ARRL Laboratory Power Line Noise pages are our best recommendation on how to resolve a power line noise problem. However, once a complaint becomes an FCC enforcement matter, the ARRL no longer has control of how the complaint is handled.

  • Q) What is power-line noise?


    Virtually all power-line noise, originating from utility company equipment, is caused by a spark or arcing across some power-line related hardware. A breakdown and ionization of air occurs, and current flows between two conductors in a gap. The gap may be caused by broken or loose hardware such as a cracked insulator. Typical culprits include insufficient and inadequate hardware spacing such as a gap between a ground wire and a staple.

    Note: The terms "gap" and "conductors" should be interpreted broadly in this case. While not power-line noise, a gap can exist in the commutator of a motor. A gap can also exist between insulator units and other parts of a utility structure. In some cases, the "conductor" can be the wood on the utility pole. 

    Once an ionized path is established in the gap, current flows at all parts of the cycle where the voltage is higher than the breakdown voltage of the gap. This typically occurs only at the positive and negative voltage peaks -- the times of highest instantaneous voltage throughout the cycle. See Figure 1 below.

    Because power-lines carry 60 Hz ac, the voltage on them passes through two peaks each cycle (one positive and one negative) and pass through zero twice each cycle. This gives 120 peaks and 120 zero crossings in each second. Power-line noise follows this pattern, generally occurring in bursts at a rate of 120 bursts per second. This gives power-line noise a characteristic sound that is often described as a harsh and raspy hum or buzz. Because the peaks occur twice per cycle, true power-line noise has a strong 120-Hz modulation on the signal.

  • Q) How is the RF generated in a power-line noise burst? Where does the RF come from?

    Going back to the physics of the phenomenon, we realize that the voltage across a gap will increase only until it reaches the breakdown voltage rating for a gap of that size. When that happens, current flows across the gap through a plasma path that is created by the breakdown of the gap. This, in turn, causes a temporary low-impedance to exist across the gap, which only exists until the arc extinguishes itself. This temporary short loads the gap and causes the voltage to drop and the arc to extinguish. Once the breakdown path is interrupted, the voltage across the gap will again begin to increase, as long as there is sufficient voltage applied to the circuit to maintain the process.

    The same cycle will repeat itself for as long as there is sufficient voltage to cause another breakdown to occur. In some cases, the noise from this can sound pretty much the same to the human ear, no matter what the gap size or the current might be. In other cases, there can also be noticeable and significant differences in the sound between different noise sources. (To give you a better idea of what power-line noise can sound like, try this simple exercise. Set your car's AM radio to an unused frequency the next time you are in your car. Note both the differences and similarities of the various power-line noise sources that you hear as you drive by them.)

  • Q) What about corona discharge? Doesn't corona cause interference? What is corona anyway?

    Corona discharge is defined as the partial breakdown of the air that surrounds an electrical element such as a conductor, hardware or insulator. Unlike the spark or arcing typically associated with power-line noise, corona discharge is rarely an RFI problem. In reality it is typically nothing more than a minor annoyance, as the noise caused by it is usually confined to lower frequencies. This noise does not propagate very far from the source because it is a low-current phenomenon that does not couple into the adjacent wires.

  • Q) I'm having an RFI problem. How do I know if it's power-line noise and not some other electrical device?

    The characteristic raspy buzz or frying sound is often the first and most obvious clue. It is typically a broad banded type of interference starting at the low end of the radio spectrum. Power-line noise is usually, but not always, stronger on lower frequencies. It occurs continuously across each band, up through the spectrum to some upper frequency where it will taper off. If the noise is not continuous across all of a ham band, or repeats at some interval as you tune up in frequency, you probably do not have power-line noise. 

    Note: The frequency at which power-line noise diminishes can also provide an important clue as to its proximity. The closer the source is, the higher the frequency at which it can be received. If it affects VHF and UHF, the source is relatively close by. If it drops off just above or around the AM broadcast band, it may be located some distance away -- perhaps several miles. 

    An accurate log can often provide important clues with regard to power-line noise suspect RFI. Power-line noise is often affected by weather. It frequently diminishes during rain or humid conditions for example. Wind may also create fluctuations or interruptions as a result of line and hardware movement. Temperature effects can also result from thermal expansion and contraction. Noise that varies with the weather is almost always caused by an outdoor source, indicating power-line noise. 

    Noise that varies with the time of day is related to what people are doing, usually pointing to some electrical device or appliance. Noise from consumer type devices, as opposed to power-line noise, will often come and go with periods of human activity. It will frequently correlate with evenings and weekends for example. Unless it is associated with climate control or HVAC system, an indoor RFI source less likely to be affected by weather than power-line noise. 

    As you might already suspect from this discussion, the importance of maintaining a good and accurate log cannot be overstated. Be sure to record time and weather conditions. Correlating the presence of the noise with periods of human activity and weather often provide very important clues when trying to identify power-line noise. It can also be helpful in identifying noise that is being propagated to your station via sky wave. A log can also be a great value should FCC involvement become necessary at some point in the future. 

    Another good test for power-line noise requires an oscilloscope. Remember that power-line noise occurs in bursts and at a rate of 120 bursts per second. Take a look at the suspect noise from your radio's audio output. (Note: The record output jack works best if available). Use the AM mode with wide filter settings and tune to a frequency without a station. Power-line noise bursts should repeat every 8.33 ms. If this is not the case, you probably don't have power-line noise. 

    Alternately, if you can see the noise pattern on a TV set, you will see usual groups of dots. Each of these dots represents one breakdown of the gap. Typically there are two groups or bands of synchronized dots that slowly drift upward on the screen. One group is a result of arcing during the positive half of the 60 Hz sine wave. The other group is a result from the negative half of the sine wave. 

    The slow drift upward is caused by a slight difference in the power-line noise burst rate and the rate at which the TV images are transmitted. The TV images are transmitted at a rate of about 59.9Hz. Power-line noise however occurs at 120 bursts per second. Since the power-line noise burst rate is almost twice the TV rate, two synchronized bands of noise appear on the screen. The slight difference in speed causes these two bands to slowly drift upward on a TV screen. 

    Obviously, if you can see the noise on your TV, and it occurs randomly across the screen, it is not synchronized to the TV sweep rate. In addition, TVI patterns that follow the TV sync rate are usually generated by the TV or some component of the TV. (What else would generate noise at a rate of 59.9 Hz?) In either of these two cases, you can assume that you do not have power-line noise.

    It is usually best to attempt this test at the lower VHF TV channels and with an antenna (as opposed to a cable hook-up). In addition, the positive and negative power-line noise burst may also have slightly different characteristics. This can cause each half of the cycle to have a slightly different pattern on the screen.

  • Q) It looks like I have power-line noise. This problem essentially puts me off the air. Can't something be done?


    The FCC has the responsibility to require that utility companies rectify interference problems if the interference is caused by faulty power utility equipment. Under FCC rules, most power-line and related equipment is classified as an "incidental radiator." This term is used to describe equipment that does not intentionally generate any radio-frequency energy, but that may create such energy as an incidental part of its intended operation. 

    Here are some of the most important rules relating to radio and television interference from incidental radiators:

    Title 47, CFR Section 15.5 General conditions of operation.

    (b) Operation of an intentional, unintentional, or incidental radiator is subject to the conditions that no harmful interference is caused and that interference must be accepted that may be caused by the operation of an authorized radio station, by another intentional or unintentional radiator, by industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) equipment, or by an incidental radiator.

    (c) The operator of the radio frequency device shall be required to cease operating the device upon notification by a Commission representative that the device is causing harmful interference. Operation shall not resume until the condition causing the harmful interference has been corrected.

    Title 47, CFR Section 15.13 Incidental radiators.

    Manufacturers of these devices shall employ good engineering practices to minimize the risk of harmful interference.

    Title 47, CFR Section 15.15 General technical requirements. 

    (c) Parties responsible for equipment compliance should note that the limits specified in this part will not prevent harmful interference under all circumstances. Since the operators of Part 15 devices are required to cease operation should harmful interference occur to authorized users of the radio frequency spectrum, the parties responsible for equipment compliance are encouraged to employ the minimum field strength necessary for communications, to provide greater attenuation of unwanted emissions than required by these regulations, and to advise the user as to how to resolve harmful interference problems (for example, see Sec. 15.105(b)).

    It is important to note the rules to not specify an absolute field strength limit with regard to power-line noise. Rather, the rules prohibit "harmful interference." The FCC also provides a very specific definition of harmful interference:

    "Section 15.3 (m) Harmful interference. Any emission, radiation or induction that endangers the functioning of a radio navigation service or other safety services or seriously degrades, obstructs or repeatedly interrupts a radio-communications service operating in accordance with the chapter." 

    The crux of the regulations often centers on "harmful interference." Amateurs, utility companies and the FCC may not always agree on what constitutes interference. Clearly, if electrical noise is causing interference to over-the-air television within the service area of a TV station, and causing S9 noise level across the HF range, this would be seen as harmful interference by all parties concerned. 

    In cases where the FCC is the final judge as to what constitutes harmful interference, they often need to consider a number of different factors. The FCC normally doesn't do this until all those affected by an electrical-noise problem have tried to work out any disagreements between themselves. The criterion the FCC often applies to their decision-making process is the "public interest." In the case of power-line noise, the FCC has to consider both the public interest of interference-free radio reception (broadcast and amateur, for examples) and the maintenance costs involved. Keeping the lights turned on is in the public interest, too.

  • Q) Who is responsible for finding & fixing power-line noise?

    The electric utility is responsible for correcting only that noise generated by the equipment and hardware that it actually owns. In cases where a utility customer uses an appliance or device that generates noise, the operator of the device is responsible for fixing it -- even if the noise is conducted and radiated by the power company's power-lines.

    Electric utility companies are often blamed for and even victimized by noise they do not cause and are not responsible to fix. This can be especially true when the customer owned noise source generates noise similar in sound to true power-line noise. Light dimmers, for example, are often mistaken for power-line noise, especially by an untrained ear. Customer owned doorbell transformers are also notorious and often found to be the source of an RFI problem. The latter is an example of a serious defect that should be repaired. In many cases, power-line or electrical noise is the first indication of an electrical failure about to occur.

  • Q) Is there anything I should do before contacting the utility?

    A good first step is to remove the antenna connection to your radio in order to verify whether the noise goes away. If only a minimal change in the noise is observed, you may have a problem with the receiver or its power supply. Another possibility is that the RFI source may be physically located adjacent to the receiver.

    If however a significant reduction in noise is observed, you should proceed to verify that the rest of your own house is clean, at least in terms of RFI. Never discount the possibility that an RFI source could be located right in your own home. The proliferation of electronic devices and electrical appliances can often result in a plethora of confusing and hard to identify sources. Many of these devices can be surprising and unexpected RFI sources, too.

    Here is an easy approach to this often-overlooked first step. You'll need a battery-powered AM radio capable of hearing the interference and possibly a flashlight. Proceed as follows:

    Go to the main breaker panel or fuse box in your home. Verify the presence of the noise with the battery-powered radio. Be sure to have your flashlight ready if electric lighting illuminates the panel or the area in which it is located.

    Caution--you must take any and all precautions before proceeding to the next step if there is any possibility of physical contact with any live or hot circuit component within the breaker panel. Solicit professional help if you are uncertain or unsure of proper and safe operation. Do not, under any circumstances, remove the breaker panel sub-cover unless you are qualified to work on live ac mains-level circuitry. Even so, there should be no reason to work within the panel sub-cover unless you can confirm that a faulty or arcing breaker is the cause of the RFI (a rare occurrence). If that is confirmed, seek qualified help.

    Set the main breaker to off. The noise will stop if its source is located within your house. If the noise continues, you can assume it is coming from a point external to your home.

    Note that, if this is the case, the noise is originating from a source that is beyond your control. Radio Direction Finding techniques may then be used isolate the noise to a particular residence or an area of your utility's power-line system. This is obviously not a repair you can make yourself. In the case of power-line noise, start by filing a complaint with your utility's customer service department. Never attempt to climb or bang on utility poles. And never touch or pull on down guys of any type.

    Assuming that the noise stops, return the main breaker to the on position.

    Isolate the offending noise source to a particular circuit by turning off each circuit breaker, individually. Once you open the breaker associated with the offending source, the noise will disappear. Be sure to return all breakers to the normal on position once the circuit has been located.

    Finally, isolate the noise to its actual source by unplugging each device on that circuit. You will have found the offending device when the noise again disappears. Don't forget potential RFI sources such as doorbell transformers and furnace controls. These devices are causal to common interference problems and can be overlooked by the novice RFI investigator. 

    You can also download a "How To" Locate Tips sheet with this and additional information from the RFI Services page.

  • Q) I have determined my interference problem is external to my home. It is most likely power-line noise. What next?

    Once you have verified the problem to most likely be true power-line noise, and that it is not coming form a source internal to your home, contact your utility's customer service department. In addition to your local phone book, customer service phone numbers are included on most power company websites. 

    It is important maintain a log during this part of the process. Be sure to record any "help ticket numbers" that may be assigned to your complaint as well as names, dates and a brief description of each conversation you have with electric company personnel.

  • Q) Earlier you said that the utility is responsible for finding power-line noise sources. The utility personnel investigating my problem admit there is a problem and want to help. I think they would fix it if they could find the source. What are my option

    It is the utility's responsibility to locate a source of noise emanating from their equipment. Utilities however do not always possess the necessary expertise or equipment to locate sources of radio noise. As a practical matter, many hams have assisted their utility in locating noise sources. In some cases, this can help expedite a speedy resolution.   

    There is a significant caveat to this approach however. Should you mislead the power company into making unnecessary repairs, the more frustrated they will become. This expense and time will be added to their repair list. Do not make a guess if you don't know the cause. And don't suggest they replace insulators and transformers. Utilities will often make these "repairs" but they rarely help. While some power companies might know less about the locating process than the affected ham, indiscriminate replacement of hardware almost always will ultimately make the problem worse. Nonetheless, depending on your level of expertise and the specifics of your situation, you may be able to facilitate a speedy resolution by locating the RFI source for the utility.  


    Here are a few pointers and suggestions should you wish to attempt this approach. Although not intended to be a complete or comprehensive, it should give many amateurs an understanding of the procedures involved and an idea of where to start. See the AC Power Interference Handbook for a more in-depth treatment of this subject: 

    1) Preliminary First Steps

    • Listen to the noise with a radio capable of receiving AM at VHF and UHF frequencies. Make note of the frequency at which the noise starts to diminish. As indicated previously, this can provide an important clue as to the proximity of the source. The closer the source, the higher in frequency you can receive it. If the noise can be heard at 440 MHz, you can expect it to be relatively close by -- perhaps within less than a quarter mile radius. If it diminishes around 80 meters however, the source can be over a mile away.
    • Be sure to use any directional antennas you may have at your station to get an initial heading on the noise.
    • Most power-line noise sources are not readily obvious by a visual inspection. Nonetheless, it may be worthwhile to look for any telltale clues by an inspection of the utility poles in any suspect areas. A pair of binoculars can help. Arcing can also sometimes be visible on a dark night.

    2) Radio Direction Finding (RDF) Techniques

    • Radio Direction Finding (RDF) techniques typically offer the best and most efficient approach to locating most power-line noise sources. It is the primary method of choice used by professionals.
    • Use a VHF or UHF receiver in the AM mode if you can hear the RFI at these frequencies. The longer wavelengths associated with the AM Broadcast Band, and even HF, can create misleading "hotspots" along a line when searching for a noise source. Not only are VHF and UHF antennas typically smaller but also direction headings are more reliable. As a general rule, only use the lower frequencies when you are too far away from the source to hear the offending RFI at VHF or UHF. 

      A ferrite loop works at HF, and a hand held Yagi works at VHF and UHF. An attenuator is necessary. Use as much attenuation as you can in order to minimize the area of search. As before - you'll need to add more and more attenuation as you approach the source. An aircraft band receiver is ideal since it is both AM and VHF. Even a battery portable with a loop stick antenna will have some directional capability, and it will get stronger in intensity as you approach the source. The MFJ-857 is also relatively small and inexpensive power-line noise receiver.

    3) A Simplified Non-RDF Method

    • If you lack RDFing capability, you may still be able to localize the source. Walk around the neighborhood with a portable radio having either an RF gain control or attenuator inline with the antenna. Use minimum RF gain or maximum attenuation to hear the signal. By determining the area of maximum strength, you can generally narrow down the possible sources. 
    • One approach might be to see how far in you neighborhood the signal extends. This might also give you some idea of the center. You can try adding an attenuator between the radio and antenna. By walking from house to house, you can keep adding attenuation as you get closer and closer. Set the attenuator so that you can just barely hear the interference. If you hold the antenna at the same distance near each power meter in the suspect area, you should be able to determine the house with the source. (Of course, there may be some trespassing issues, especially if you don't know the homeowners.)
    • Even if you do not have a portable HF or higher frequency receiver, use a battery portable or automobile AM radio. Tune it to the upper end of the band to a frequency without a station. Drive or walk the area as appropriate to see if you can determine any noise hot spots. Again, an attenuator is helpful if you have one. Set the attenuator so that you can just barely hear the noise at any locations you determine are appropriate. You'll typically need to add more and more attenuation as you get closer.

    NOTE: As discussed previously, the longer wavelengths associated with the AM Broadcast Band, and even HF, can create misleading "hotspots" along a line when searching for a noise source. It is always advisable to verify your suspicions with a VHF or UHF receiver. False MF or HF indications will typically become readily apparent at higher VHF and UHF frequencies. It is also important to remember that both indoor noise sources and power line noise signals will peak at the power company's ground wires and down guys. These wires and similar hardware are radiating antennas for both utility and non-utility RFI sources.

    4) Signature or Fingerprint Techniques -- Oscilloscope Required

    • You can use signature or fingerprint techniques to determine the offending noise source from a number of sources you might encounter during the investigation. Observe the noise from your radio's audio output with an oscilloscope. Record the image. Since each noise source will exhibit unique characteristics, you can now match this noise "signature" with one from the multitude of sources you may encounter in the investigation. Compare such things as the duration of each noise burst and other characteristics to do this.  

    Note: If you have a non-portable oscilloscope, you may still be able to perform signature matching with a tape recorder. Simply make a high quality recording of each suspected noise source in the field. Replay the sounds for signature analysis at your home or other convenient location. Differences in audio circuitry may make it difficult to match recorded patterns with the receiver patterns, but this technique is worth a try in some cases.

    5) Final Suggestion -- Form an RFI Committee

    • Many amateur radio clubs feature foxhunts and similar club activities. If your club is one -- you may wish to consider or suggest the possibility of forming an RFI committee. Many of the skills and equipment used in fox hunting are ideally suited for RDFing sources of RFI. Sharing equipment, knowledge and expertise can work to everyone's advantage!

  • Q) I've tried working with my utility for a considerable period of time. At first they seemed to want to help. Now they simply ignore me. Is there a source for help? What about the FCC?

    The ARRL has a cooperative agreement with the FCC to help in these cases. While the program is not a quick or easy solution, it does offer an opportunity and step-by-step course of action for relief. It emphasizes and provides for voluntary cooperation without FCC intervention. There are several built in waiting periods and a number of requirements that a ham must follow precisely.

  • Q) Why contact the ARRL? Isn't the FCC responsible for enforcement of its rules regarding harmful interference?

    We submitted this question to Riley Hollingsworth, Special Counsel at the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. Riley, K4ZDH had the following response: 

    "We do not have the staff to deal with all of these issues directly. We therefore depend upon the technical folks at ARRL to take first cut at resolving the issue and in helping the complainant define and isolate the problem. Many times what is thought to be power-line interference is actually originating from within the household or a neighbor's property."

  • Q) Earlier you mentioned the ARRL / FCC Cooperative Agreement Program. What is the process?

    1) Eliminate the RFI source as being internal to your home and verify it as power-line noise to the best of your ability. Maintain a log of frequencies, noise levels in S-Units, the date, weather and time of day. It can be just as important to log the presence of noise as well as the absence of it. 

    2) Get the ball rolling as soon as possible! File a complaint with your local utility's customer service immediately after performing step 1 above. And as before, don't forget to maintain an accurate log. Be sure to record each contact and any associated help ticket numbers with your complaint. 

    3) If, after a reasonable period of time, your utility remains unresponsive to your complaint, contact the ARRL RFI Desk. Sixty days is probably a good approximation, but this can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis. You'll need to provide the name of your utility, plus the name and address of your utility's CEO. 

    4) The ARRL will send your utility an ARRL letter. Typically, this letter is addressed to your utility's CEO. It describes the FCC /ARRL Cooperative Agreement, pertinent FCC Rules, and includes brochures and includes pamphlets on how to fix the problem. It also urges voluntary cooperation with an offer to help from the ARRL. You will automatically receive a copy of this letter. 

    5) The ARRL Letter allows 60 days before proceeding to the next step. An extra week or more is also added for mail delivery. During this time, you must cooperate in any reasonable way you can with the utility's RFI Investigator. This includes allowing the investigator to hear the noise and take sample of it at your station. You must also inform the ARRL of any activity or correspondence from the utility regarding your case.

    6) If, after 60 days, the utility has failed to make a good faith effort to fix the problem, you need to once again contact the ARRL. This is an important step, and the only way the ARRL has of knowing the problem has not been resolved. Should you fail to contact the ARRL at any time during or after this step, your case may incorrectly be assumed to have been resolved.  At this time, you must also specify if you want your name and related information removed from the FCC letter as it will appear in the Enforcement Log.  Please note that FCC documents such as these are public information.  You can however request your name and related information be removed from the public release. 

    7) The ARRL prepares your case for FCC consideration. Assuming the Commission does not reject your case, the FCC sends an official advisory notice to your utility. This step typically takes up to two weeks.

    You do not receive a copy of the FCC letter. It will however be released in to the Enforcement Log approximately two to four weeks after it is issued. Review the FCC Enforcement Log for your letter. (Alternately, a search for your call sign on the ARRL Web Site is often another convenient approach.) If your letter does not appear in the log for a month after it is issued, you need to inform the ARRL RFI Desk.  

    8) The FCC letter allows another 60 days for utility to fix or demonstrate a good faith effort to fix the problem. The same rules apply during this time period as with the ARRL Letter. An extra week or more is added for mail delivery you must cooperate in any reasonable way with the utility's RFI Investigator. You must also inform the ARRL of any activity or correspondence from the utility regarding your case.

    9) If, after the 60 days allowed by the FCC letter, the utility has failed to make a good faith effort to fix the problem; you need to once again contact the ARRL RFI Help Desk. As with the previous ARRL Letter, this is an important step. It is the only way the ARRL and the FCC has of knowing the problem has not been resolved. Should you fail to do this, the ARRL and FCC may incorrectly assume your case is closed. 

    10) The FCC issues a second notice to the utility. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, this notice typically allows 15 to 30 days for a response. As with the first FCC Letter, you do not get a copy. You should again look for your letter to appear in the enforcement log. If it doesn't appear after four weeks, you should notify the ARRL RFI Desk. 

    11) If after the second FCC Notice, the utility fails to demonstrate a good faith effort to resolve the problem, again contact the ARRL Help Desk. The next step is to form a committee to provide an independent assessment of the situation. The committee will generate a report, which the ARRL's RFI Desk will present to the FCC. 

    The FCC will then make a decision as to whether or not a formal field investigation is in order. Should such an investigation be requested, it is important to understand the outcome will be difficult to reverse. The FCC may or may not decline to take any further action in your case. Monetary forfeitures may also be levied against the utility. This is a risk that most amateurs would obviously prefer to avoid. It is in everyone's best interest to achieve a voluntary resolution with which everyone will be satisfied.


  • Q) Are there any guidelines or special rules of protocol that I should follow under the ARRL / FCC Cooperative Agreement Program? What is expected of me?

    While every case is different and therefore handled differently, there are some general expectations and requirements to which everyone must adhere. Most are common sense and good manners. The following summary should be helpful for anyone that wishes to be included in the program. A few of these guidelines have already been detailed. You may recognize them from answers to previous questions: 

    1) Depending on the specifics of a particular case, other ARRL volunteers and staff may be involved. ARRL Section Managers and local Technical Coordinators often provide help at the local level. Don't be surprised if you are contacted by other individuals from the ARRL attempting to help in your case.

    2) Individuals participating in this program are expected to treat all utility personnel, ARRL staff and volunteers with respect. Anyone that exhibits abusive or hostile behavior may be dismissed from the program. 

    3) Individuals participating in this program are expected to cooperate in any reasonable way with RFI investigators from their utility. This also includes providing access signals from their station's antenna for the purpose of assessing the problem and recording a noise signature. In cases where the amateur will not be home during the RFI investigation, a cable from the station can be run out a window for the RFI investigator. 

    4) During the mandatory waiting periods, i.e., the time allowed periods after each letter is sent to the utility, it is not necessary to flood the ARRL RFI Desk with daily or excessive reports that nothing has happened. It is important however to report any contact or action taken by the utility during a waiting period. Be reasonable when updating the ARRL RFI Desk when nothing has taking place. Unless circumstances unique to your particular case require more frequent updates, every two to four weeks should be adequate. 

    5) It is imperative to update the ARRL RFI Help Desk of your RFI status after or just prior to the expiration of a waiting period. Should you fail to do this, your case may be incorrectly assumed to have been resolved during the waiting period. 

    6) Any and all formal contact with your utility must be through the normal complaint process in order to be properly logged. Informal contact with utility personnel, such as a lineman that might be working in your neighborhood, may not be properly recorded the company's system. It is important to recognize the difference. While utility personnel may be able to help, the complaint will most likely not be on file should future ARRL or FCC involvement be required. Always follow-up with a formal complaint whenever an informal request for help does not resolve the problem. And always remember to request the help ticket or complaint number associated with your case. 

    7) The last and probably most important requirement is patience. While it is true that some cases of power-line noise are resolved in a timely fashion, the reality is that many cases can linger for an extended period of time. There are often no quick solutions. It is important to understand that the ARRL Cooperative Agreement Program does not offer a quick fix. It does however provide a step-by-step and systematic course of action under the auspices of the FCC in cases where a utility does not comply with Part 15.

  • Q) Is the ARRL's Cooperative Agreement with the FCC only available to ARRL members?

    No -- ARRL membership is not required to participate in this program. Most amateurs however recognize the value of this service and wish to support this effort with their membership. A typical case can take many hours of staff time plus other ARRL resources. Furthermore, the price of a single membership is typically only a small fraction of the costs associated with a single power-line noise case under this program. Membership in this case is a real bargain.

  • Q) I've exhausted every reasonable possibility to resolve my power-line noise problem with my utility. The problem has been ongoing for a considerable period of time and I would like to file my complaint with the ARRL under the FCC Cooperative Agreement P

    All complaints filed with the ARRL under the Cooperative Agreement with the FCC start and are initiated by ARRL RFI Desk. If you contact the RFI Desk, be prepared to explain briefly the steps you have taken to try to resolve this with your power company. If you and the person handling your complaint agree that an "ARRL Power-Line Noise Letter" is appropriate, be prepared to supply them with the utility's name, address and an individual to receive the letter. This individual should be someone at the executive level, typically the corporate CEO, if possible.

    Here is the contact information for the ARRL RFI Desk: 

    American Radio Relay League
    RFI Desk
    225 Main Street
    Newington, CT 06111
    Tel: 860-594-0392

  • Q) In cases where an amateur, for one reason or another, prefers to directly contact the FCC, or the interference is to a broadcast service, what is the procedure to file a complaint with the FCC?

    The Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Call Center can help with RFI problems. Before contacting the FCC, however, people should make reasonable efforts to resolve power-line interference through the normal customer-service procedures at their power-utility company. In cases that involve the Amateur Radio Service, the FCC often directly asks the ARRL to help resolve cases before they consider other steps. 

    Once someone has exhausted every reasonable possibility at resolving a power-line or other interference problem with a utility company (or operator of any other Part 15 device), they can contact the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Call Center and discuss their problem with one of the FCC personnel. 

    If you do contact the Call Center, be prepared to explain briefly the steps you have taken to try to resolve this with your power company. If you and the FCC staff agree that having the FCC send the "RFI-Power-Utility Letter" is appropriate, be prepared to supply them with the utility name, address and, if possible, an individual to receive the letter. This individual should be an upper manager or vice president, if possible. 

    Here is the contact information for the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Call Center: 

    Federal Communications Commission
    Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Call Center
    1270 Fairfield Rd
    Gettysburg, PA 17325
    Tel: 1-888-CALL-FCC

Web Links

RFI Services - Power-line workshops and troubleshooting consulting.
RFI Services provides classroom and on-site training for power-company personnel on the techniques used to identify and cure power-line interference. They can also troubleshoot electrical-noise problems in the field.
[You can't say enough about these guys! --Ed.]

Radar Engineers - Makers of professional grade RFI locators, ultrasonic locators, arc reflection radar, secondary fault locators and cable tracers.

FCC Enforcement Log