FCC OKs Channel Move for New Jersey Township

WASHINGTON: Woodbridge, N.J., built a $10 million emergency communications network just to find it picked up “Gossip Girl.” The municipality this week was granted a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission to move its network to a different frequency. Woodbridge will move its network from Ch. 20 at 506-512 MHz to Ch. 16 at 482-488 MHz. The waiver was necessary because commission rules reserved Ch. 16 for areas of New York and Bergen County, N.J. Woodbridge Township is in Middlesex County, N.J.

The communications network was fired up about a year ago. The interference started immediately, according to the FCC document.

“During system startup and optimization, intermittent interference was identified,” Woodbridge told the FCC. It was traced to WTXX-TV, The CW affiliate in Waterbury, Conn., also on Ch. 20. The interference was attributed to “ducting,” which was said to disable the system for “unacceptable periods of time” given that police, fire and emergency personnel rely on it for communications. Woodbridge brought in an engineering consultant and one from Motorola to see if the interference could be overcome with filters or some other alternative. It could not.

“Woodbridge contends that its ‘$10 million investment in radio system infrastructure is now stranded,’” the waiver said.

There were no other VHF, UHF, 470 or 800 MHz channels available to the Township, according to the frequency advisor for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials. An assignment within the 700 MHz block designated for public safety was considered, but much of it’s spoken for in that area, and the cost to move the Woodbridge system to 700 MHz was prohibitive.

The FCC granted Woodbridge six frequency pairs in Ch. 16 on the condition that its network does not interfere with two other municipal networks nearby. The Township said it would give Ch. 20 back to the FCC.
-- Deborah D. McAdams