Communications Technologies Inc. (COMTek) recently said it will upgrade all of its 600 overhead Broadband over Power Line devices in Manassas, Va. to its latest Mainnet second generation "G2" technology. The purpose of the upgrade is to enhance broadband services to customers in the D.C. suburb. Readers, especially ham radio operators, may remember that this Manassas system has often been cited as a source of interference to HF communications.
In early March, the American Radio Relay League, which represents amateur radio operators, reported that the FCC directed the City of Manassas and COMTek to conduct measurements following a radio amateur's interference complaint. COMTek said that "on/off" testing found no interference unique to BPL in the amateur radio bands. This conclusion is included in a report COMTek filed with the FCC on April 6, in which the company stated that an independent FCC-certified testing laboratory found no interference attributable to BPL in the specific ham radio frequencies covered in the amateur radio operators' complaint to the FCC. COMTek said an almost identical level of interference was found in the ham radio bands covered in the complaint, whether the BPL equipment was operational or not, meaning that interference reported by amateur radio operators did not appear to be attributable to BPL operations.
COMTek said it would continue testing, including other ham radio frequencies. The company said that as of mid-January, it had completed 100 percent notching of all BPL devices in the overhead areas of Manassas. A total of 590 BPL-related devices in Manassas were notched by COMTek to address any potential interference issues.
According to ARRL CEO David Sumner, "Note that it is not just the amateur bands between 4 and 30 MHz that may be affected by BPL interference. Shortwave broadcasting, WWV reception and CB all may be affected." Sumner said that while the Manassas situation is often called a success story for BPL, the reality of the situation is that the system installed there has proved to be a significant source of radio spectrum pollution and that COMTek had not corrected the problems.
In January, COMTek Vice President Walt Adams said, "Manassas is the first and also the best full-scale commercial deployment of BPL on a meaningful scale in the United States and we take great pride in the system, which has operated with virtually no hitches to date. In fact, we know of fewer than half a dozen ham radio operator complaints, each of COMTek has gone to truly extraordinary lengths to address."
Adams said that COMTek continues to stand by the company's service and equipment deployment and that he was not aware of a valid basis for concerns of those, "who would deprive BPL broadband to Manassas families and small businesses." Adams said that opposition to the Manassas BPL system came almost entirely from persons living outside the city and that the opposition appeared to stem solely from opposition to BPL.
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