ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB030 (2004)

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ARLB030 FCC Adopts New BPL Rules

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ARRL Bulletin 30  ARLB030
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  October 15, 2004
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB030
ARLB030 FCC Adopts New BPL Rules

Meeting October 14 in open session, the FCC adopted revised Part 15
(unlicensed services) rules to specifically regulate broadband over
power line (BPL) systems. Specifics of the new rules in a Report and
Order in ET Docket 04-37 won't be known for a few weeks. In comments
before voting, three members of the Commission, including Chairman
Michael K. Powell, specifically mentioned the concerns of Amateur
Radio operators and expressed either assurances or hope that the new
BPL rules will adequately address interference to licensed services.
Republican FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin addressed Amateur Radio's
and broadcasters' interference concerns in his written statement.
ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, said he was encouraged to see the
Commission acknowledge interference to Amateur Radio as a genuine
issue in the BPL proceeding.

''What the League has done in the last year and a half on this issue
showed in the Commission's public meeting today,'' Haynie said. He
cited the FCC's approval of three major points that the League had
been pushing for: Certification of BPL equipment instead of
verification, a requirement for a public BPL database--something the
BPL industry did not want--and mechanisms to deal swiftly with
interference complaints.

Anh Wride of the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET),
outlined the draft R&O and acknowledged that Access BPL devices
''pose a somewhat higher potential for interference to licensed
radio services than typical Part 15 devices.'' But, Wride went on to
say, ''we believe the specific benefits of BPL warrant acceptance of
a small degree of additional risk, and that this interference
potential can be satisfactorily managed.''

Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, said he remains concerned
about interference to Amateur Radio users. ''I take the concerns of
this community very seriously and believe that the FCC has an
obligation to work hard to monitor, investigate and take quick
action, where appropriate, to resolve harmful interference.''

Copps said if interference occurs, ''we must have a system in place
to resolve it immediately,'' and he expressed the hope that the new
rules would include such ''rapid turnaround'' provisions. Copps, who
dissented in part with the R&O, raised the question of whether
utility ratepayers should have to ''subsidize an electric power
company's foray into broadband.''

The Commission's other Democrat, Jonathan S. Adelstein, said the
interference question made the proceeding a challenging one because
it had to accommodate concerns raised by Public Safety licensees,
federal government users and Amateur Radio operators. ''These are
important services that we need to protect from harmful
interference,'' Adelstein said.

Adelstein also said that while it's clear that some BPL systems can
co-exist with existing licensees, others ''haven't fared so well.''
He said those systems shouldn't be deployed commercially until it's
assured that they won't cause harmful interference.

Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, a Republican, said the FCC had to
''make some hard compromises'' to deal with questions about
interference. But she expressed confidence in ''technical solutions.''

Chairman Powell called it ''a banner day'' for communications in the
US because, he said, BPL promises ''ubiquitous service to all
Americans at affordable rates.'' The chairman, a Republican, conceded
that BPL will affect some spectrum users--including ''all those
wonderful Amateur Radio operators out there.'' Powell said the FCC
has taken Amateur Radio interference concerns seriously from the
start and has taken care to ensure that protections are in place ''to
allow that service to continue.'' At the same time, Powell implied
that the FCC must balance the benefits of BPL against the relative
value of other licensed services.

''But let me underscore the potential for the American economy is too
great, too enormous, too potentially groundbreaking to sit idly by
and allow any claim or any possible speculative fear keep us from
driving this technology and drive America into the broadband
future.''

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, suggested that Powell was overstating
the necessity of yet another broadband pipeline. ''It's astonishing
to me that the chairman of the FCC can talk about needing a 'third
way' to provide broadband to consumers when multiple technologies
already are available, including wireless broadband,'' he said.

For more information on BPL, visit the ''Broadband Over Power Line
(BPL) and Amateur Radio'' page on the ARRL Web site, 
www.arrl.org/bpl .
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