ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB010 (2013)

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB010
ARLB010 FCC Again Denies ARRL's Petition in BPL Proceeding

ZCZC AG10
QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 10  ARLB010
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  April 18, 2013
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB010
ARLB010 FCC Again Denies ARRL's Petition in BPL Proceeding

On April 16, the FCC issued a Second Memorandum Opinion and Order
(MO&O), denying the ARRL's December 2011 Petition for
Reconsideration that sought reconsideration of the FCC's Second
Report and Order (BPL Second Order), "fundamentally affirm[ing]" its
rules for Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) systems. In
denying the ARRL's Petition, the FCC noted that the Petition "[did]
not raise new arguments based on new information in the record or on
the Commission's new analysis of limited points as directed by the
Court, nor does it demonstrate any errors or omissions in the
Commission's previous decisions," and that its previous rulings
"strike an appropriate balance between the dual objectives of
providing for Access BPL technology -- which has potential
applications for broadband and Smart Grid uses -- while protecting
incumbent radio services against harmful interference."

The ARRL made 14 principal points in its Petition, each of which was
aimed at urging the FCC to enact additional rules that would permit
BPL systems to operate without the severe interference potential
inherent in BPL technology. The ARRL argued that the current rules
do not address this severe interference potential, which was
manifested in every deployment of BPL in which the safeguards urged
by the ARRL were absent. The FCC dismissed all of the ARRL's
arguments, claiming that the ARRL "did not submit any new
information," made "no new argument" or that it had, in the
Commission's view, failed to make its point.

Background

In 2004, the FCC adopted rules for Access BPL systems, and on
reconsideration sought by the ARRL and others, it reaffirmed those
rules two years later. In 2007, the ARRL challenged these same rules
in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; the Court
found for the ARRL on two of its major points and remanded the rules
to the FCC for reexamination. In July 2009, the FCC issued a Request
for Further Comment and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
(FNPRM) to address the issues remanded to them by the Court. In
October 2011, the FCC issued a Second Report and Order (BPL Second
Order) that "fundamentally affirmed our rules for Access Broadband
over Power Line (Access BPL) systems. We also make certain minor
modifications to improve and clarify the rules. These rules provide
an appropriate balance between the dual objectives of providing for
Access BPL technology that has potential applications for broadband
and Smart Grid while protecting incumbent radio services against
harmful interference."

In the BPL Second Order, the FCC specifically further explained its
rationale for retaining the 40-dB-per-decade extrapolation factor
for calculating signal decay of BPL at increasing distances
perpendicular to the power line at frequencies below 30 MHz,
modified the rules to increase the required "notch filtering"
capability for systems operating below 30 MHz from 20 dB to 25 dB,
established a new alternative procedure for determining
site-specific extrapolation factors and adopted a definition for the
"slant-range distance" used in the BPL measurement guidelines to
further clarify its application. The FCC noted in its MO&O that as a
part of the BPL Second Order, it had also rejected the "ARRL's newly
raised request for mandatory notching of all amateur bands at notch
depths of at least 35 dB, and found no basis that would warrant
modification of the Access BPL rules or otherwise provide additional
protection for the Amateur Radio Service."

In its December 2011 Petition for Reconsideration, the ARRL
maintained that that FCC's BPL rules failed to acknowledge the
substantial interference potential of Access BPL systems relative to
Amateur Radio HF communications, and repeated its previous request
for full-time notching (frequency avoidance) of all amateur
frequency allocations of at least 25 dB. If this was done, the
distance extrapolation factor assumed for signal decay at distance
from BPL-carrying power lines is of far less concern, though the
ARRL expected the FCC to adopt a scientifically valid and
supportable extrapolation factor.

The Second Memorandum Opinion and Order

The FCC claimed in its MO&O that the ARRL urged four major points:
"The unique and substantial interference potential of Access BPL
systems relative to Amateur Radio HF communications, the
inapplicability and/or inadequacy of the BPL rules with respect to
Amateur Radio interaction; the clear necessity of mandatory,
full-time notching by Access BPL systems of Amateur Radio
allocations to notch depths of at least 25 dB, and the absence of
any negative effect on BPL systems of the obligation to maintain
full-time notching of amateur bands." The FCC said that the ARRL
made these arguments "based on the same reasoning and facts that we
considered and disposed of previously in the BPL First Order, the
BPL First MO&O and the BPL Second Order." The FCC was, it said,
unpersuaded by those arguments and denied the ARRL's Petition.

In its MO&O, the FCC stated that "[t]hroughout this proceeding and
in its judicial appeal, the ARRL has argued that more restrictive
technical standards are needed to protect the Amateur Radio Service
from interference caused by radiofrequency (RF) emissions from
Access BPL systems. We have specifically rejected as unnecessary
these repeated requests by the ARRL for tighter emissions controls
on Access BPL operations, more stringent interference mitigation
measures, and requirements for avoidance of BPL operations in the
amateur bands."

The ARRL's Petition called on the FCC to do more that what the FCC
called its "minor adjustments to the rules" in the BPL Second Order:
Modification of the rules to increase the required notch filtering
capability for systems operating below 30 MHz from 20 dB to 25 dB,
established a new alternative procedure for determining
site-specific extrapolation factors and adopted a definition for the
"slant-range distance" used in the BPL measurement guidelines to
further clarify its application. "The ARRL is not specifically
requesting reconsideration of these above minor modifications to the
rules that were adopted in the BPL Second Order," the FCC said.
"Rather, the ARRL is reiterating its previous request for mandatory
full-time permanent notching of all Amateur Radio allocations, which
we considered and rejected in the BPL Second Order."

One of the ARRL's 14 points in its Petition concerned BPL systems
that are operated by International Broadband Electric Communications
(IBEC). The FCC noted that in December 2010, the ARRL submitted a
BPL interference complaint regarding some IBEC-operated BPL systems
to both the FCC's Enforcement Bureau (EB) and the Office of
Engineering and Technology (OET). In February 2011, the ARRL
submitted a request to the OET to set aside IBEC's certification
grants for their BPL equipment. In January 2012, IBEC announced it
was closing.

"The ARRL argues that because no action has been taken on these
complaints, the rules should require permanent notching of amateur
frequencies since post hoc enforcement of interference issues is not
adequate," the FCC stated in the MO&O. "We observe that over the
years, the Commission has investigated and taken action on BPL
complaints where it appeared that it was warranted. In the early
period of BPL development, before the rules were in place and
compliant equipment was in use, some of our investigations took time
to complete. After the rules were established in 2004, there were
fewer incidences of interference complaints and we have had
cooperation from the BPL system operators to resolve them. We notice
that before the Commission could take action on ARRL's December 2010
interference complaint and February 2011 request regarding IBEC,
IBEC had started the shut-down of all its BPL operations, making
investigation of its operations as they related to the complaints
moot. This anomalous case cannot be extrapolated to conclude that
the Commission does not have the capability and/or readiness to
enforce its BPL rules. To the contrary, the Commission has
diligently investigated previous complaints about interference from
BPL systems."

"The denial of our Petition for Reconsideration, some 16 months
after it was filed, comes as no surprise, although some of the
rhetoric the Commission resorts to in continuing to defend its
wrong-headed promotion of the flawed BPL technology is
disappointing," said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner,
K1ZZ. "At one point, the Commission even goes to a dictionary to
debate our use of the term 'ubiquitous' to describe amateur
operation. More disturbing is that the Commission says the shutdown
of IBEC's systems occurred 'before the Commission could take action
on ARRL's December 2010 interference complaint,' rendering the
complaint moot -- but the shutdown did not occur until January 2012,
more than a year later. Are the Commission's licensees supposed to
wait until BPL operators become victims of their own financial
failings before they gain relief from interference from unlicensed
emitters that are operating in clear violation of the Commission's
own rules?"

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, concurred: "For 10 years
now, the ARRL has aggressively and consistently provided to the FCC
irrefutable technical arguments, cited controlling technical sources
and provided video and audio recordings of actual harmful
interference as it occurred at BPL deployments.

"Several conclusions are unavoidable to an unbiased reader of the
record in this protracted rulemaking proceeding: (1) BPL technology
has a high interference potential to high frequency and medium
frequency authorized radio services. (2) BPL interference on medium
voltage overhead power lines occurs over substantial distances along
power lines and at substantial distances away from power lines. (3)
The interference potential of BPL at hundreds of yards from overhead
power lines has been documented by NTIA and by the FCC's own
laboratory staff. (3) Each and every BPL deployment that has not
effectively notched Amateur Radio bands, full time, to a reasonable
notch depth, has caused interference to stations in the Amateur
Radio Service. (4) The FCC has not effectively addressed or resolved
any BPL interference case reported to it to date, and its resources
are insufficient to remedy BPL interference after the fact. (5) The
only way to protect geographically proximate radio services from BPL
interference (such as Amateur Radio stations, most of which are
located very close to medium voltage overhead power lines) is by
rules which prevent the interference at the outset. (6) Responsible
BPL companies long ago demonstrated that it is possible to notch, at
all times, all Amateur Radio bands to a reasonable notch depth
between 25 and 35 dB, without any functional degradation of their
systems."

Imlay said that full time, mandatory notching of amateur bands to a
notch depth not less than 25 dB was "the least that the FCC should
have required in its rules, because interference prevention is
possible; post-hoc remediation is not. In this instance, the FCC has
not acted responsibly in its stewardship of the MF and HF radio
spectrum. The ARRL will continue to vigilantly guard against the
abuse and pollution of the radio spectrum in the use of BPL
technology on a case-by-case basis as necessary, wherever
necessary."
NNNN
/EX