If your tower lights fail for even one day — expect a fine

On Jan. 15, the FCC fined Electronic Corporate Pages (ECPI) in Florence, TX, for failing to properly maintain its tower lights. Then on Aug. 11, 2009, the commission’s Houston Office of the Enforcement Bureau received a complaint that antenna structure number 1048971 was unlit, and the owner listed in the registration could not be reached.

A month later, agents from the Houston Office inspected above tower and found that structure’s medium intensity obstruction lights were not operational. Upon investigation, the FCC discovered that while the tower owner had hired a person to monitor the lights, that person had moved from the area, and the tower owner did not know precisely when that happened. In addition, ECPI had failed to update the tower’s registration information with the FCC. The tower owner repaired the lighting system, and it appeared to be working properly that same day.

The Houston office issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture to ECPI for $13,000 for apparent willful and repeated violation of Sections 17.51(b) and 17.57 of the Rules. ECPI requested a reduction of cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.

After consideration, the FCC eventually reduced the total forfeiture to $4000.

The bottom line is that the FCC takes tower lighting seriously. Be sure your tower owner registration and contact information is correct. Check regularly the tower light monitoring equipment, and be sure your staff know what to do if they detect a tower light failure. And, if the tower lights should ever fail, be sure to notify the proper FAA office immediately. Then repair the lights ASAP.

National EAS test coming

The FCC is about to demand that everyone participate in a nationwide test of the EAS system. The FCC issued a NPRM in late January, which would call for a yearly national test. The commission claims a nationwide test, which has never been conducted, would replace one of the required monthly tests participants now must conduct. EAS participants would be required to log the test results and provide information to the FCC’s Safety and Homeland Security Bureau within 30 days of the test.

The notice proposes that certain information be provided to the SHSB office at the conclusion of the test, including:

• Whether the station received the alert message

• Whether the station retransmitted the alert

• If the facility failed to receive/transmit the alert, what was their best effort diagnostic analysis of the cause for failure

• Date and time the test was received and transmitted

• Identification of message source

• Brand and model number of EAS equipment installed

The commission stated that it intends to “move quickly to adopt any and all necessary rule changes to ensure that the commission and other federal, state, local and nongovernmental EAS stakeholders have the necessary diagnostic tools to evaluate EAS performance and readiness nationwide.”

You have until March 1 to file comments and until March 30 for reply comments. Comments can be filed electronically with the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System.

IBM demonstrates 100GHz graphene transistor

IBM researchers recently demonstrated an RF graphene transistor with the highest cut-off frequency achieved so far for any graphene device — 100GHz. Graphene is a single atom-thick layer of carbon atoms bonded in a hexagonal honeycomb-like arrangement.

"A key advantage of graphene lies in the very high speeds in which electrons propagate, which is essential for achieving high-speed, high-performance, next-generation transistors," said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. "The breakthrough we are announcing demonstrates clearly that graphene can be utilized to produce high-performance devices and integrated circuits."

Graphene is a two-dimensional form of carbon with unique electrical, optical, mechanical and thermal properties. The graphene transistor itself utilized a metal top-gate architecture and a novel gate insulator stack involving a polymer and a high dielectric constant oxide. The gate length was modest, 240 nanometers, leaving plenty of space for further optimization of its performance by scaling down the gate length.

The frequency performance of the graphene device already exceeds the cut-off frequency of state-of-the-art silicon transistors of the same gate length (~40GHz). Similar performance was obtained from devices based on graphene obtained from natural graphite, proving that high performance can be obtained from graphene of different origins.