ARRL plans federal court appeal of certain BPL rules
The ARRL Executive Committee is expected this weekend to ratify plans to appeal in federal court certain aspects of the FCC's Part 15 rules governing broadband over power line (BPL) systems. Assuming the EC signs off on the strategy, the League will file a Notice of Appeal by October 22 with the US District Court of Appeals - DC Circuit. ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the League went forward with its appeal plans only after considering the effect on licensed spectrum users of letting the BPL rules stand.
Phil Wait - VK2DKN
''This decision was made after careful review of the FCC's October 2004 BPL Report and Order (R&O) and of the August 2006 Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) that dealt with petitions for reconsideration,'' said Sumner.
Several reconsideration petitions of the initial R&O - including one from ARRL - called on the FCC to strengthen rules aimed at protecting licensed radio systems from BPL interference. Instead, in a new rule only revealed after the FCC made the MO&O public, the FCC limited the extent to which an unlicensed, unintentional radiator has to protect a licensed mobile station.
The new rule, 15.611(c)(1)(iii), provides that BPL operators only have to reduce emission levels below established FCC permissible limits by 20 dB below 30 MHz and by 10 dB above 30 MHz - even if that's not enough to resolve harmful interference complaints.
Sumner contends the rule change contravenes the International Radio Regulations and the Communications Act of 1934. ''The FCC has, in effect, tried to redefine harmful interference,'' he said. ''It can't do that. The Commission doesn't have the authority to do that, and we're going to demonstrate that to the Court of Appeals.''
What the FCC has done with respect to licensed mobile services ''should strike fear into the hearts of those who rely on public safety communications,'' Sumner added, especially since the rule requires BPL operators to do even less above 30 MHz than at HF.
The Commission also declined to adjust the 40 dB per decade ''extrapolation factor'' applied to measurements performed at distances from power lines other than those specified in Part 15. Sumner says this is an important technical point because the existing Part 15 rule causes test results to underestimate actual field strength. Petitions for reconsideration from the ARRL and others argued that a figure closer to 20 dB per decade was more appropriate. Sumner called the Commission's stand on the 40 dB per decade rule ''clearly, demonstrably and inarguably wrong.''
He said the principles that the FCC appears to be following for the first time - if applied generally - represent an abuse of licensees' rights. ''It's unacceptable that the FCC would reduce the rights of its licensees in favor of unlicensed, unintentional emitters,'' he said. ''Remember that 'unintentional emission' is just another term for 'spectrum pollution.'''
Sumner made it clear that the League is not suing BPL providers for causing interference, nor suing the FCC for failing to enforce its own rules against harmful interference. ''We are not satisfied with the level of attention the Commission is paying to existing cases of BPL interference, but this is not the time to pursue that in federal court,'' he said.
While the separate standard for what constitutes harmful interference to a mobile and the 40 dB per decade extrapolation factor issues precipitated the decision to appeal, Sumner said, the arguments the League puts forward in its court filing may touch on other matters as well.
''The court is not going to rewrite the rules,'' Sumner explained. ''The court can make the Commission go back to the drawing board and re-decide them, however.''
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