FCC Begins Inquiring on Broadband over Power Line Regulation

May 12, 2003
The FCC has released a Notice of Inquiry http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-03-100A1.pdf regarding carrier current systems, including broadband over power line (BPL) systems. BPL uses multiple RF carriers to carry data over power lines. Power companies are testing the technology over high voltage power lines to deliver high speed data to commercial and residential customers. There is concern that RF emissions from BPL will interfere with other radio services and existing home devices that use RF to network devices over the power line.

Existing in-home systems using the HomePlug 1.0 standard operate from 4.5 to 21 MHz and are capable of data transmission speeds up to 14 Mbps. Outdoor equipment, currently being tested under FCC experimental licenses, uses overhead powerlines and frequencies ranging from 1.7 MHz to 80 MHz. These frequencies avoid the AM broadcast band, but could pose problems for TV channels 2 - 5 if RF is radiated from the power lines. DTV field tests have shown that existing noise is problem for DTV operations in low VHF channels at the DTV power levels authorized by the FCC. A list of experiment grants is available at https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/index_els_ie.html.

Limits on radiated emission from any part of the wiring or power network connected to the RF power source are used to control interference below 30 MHz. Above 30 MHz, the Class A (commercial environment) or Class B (residential environment) standards for conducted and radiated emissions for digital devices (such as PCs) applies.

The FCC Notice of Inquiry asks for comments on the potential for interference to home BPL users and to licensed spectrum users and what steps should be taken to protect these users. Services affected by potential BPL interference include a wide range of MF and HF band users, including ham radio, broadcast radio, various fixed and mobile services including aeronautical and maritime services. Above 30 MHz, services affected include radio and TV broadcasting, public safety and law enforcement, aeronautical radionavigation and communication, radio astronomy, ham radio and many others.

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