Skip to main content

FCC to Address BPL at This Week's Open Meeting

In the FCC's announcement of an open Commission meeting Oct. 14, 2004, the first item listed was consideration of a Report and Order "regarding changes to the rules applicable to Access Broadband over Power Line systems." Access Broadband over Power Line (BPL) has been a controversial subject, with the American Radio Relay League expressing concerns about interference to amateur radio operators and other users of the shortwave spectrum. Broadcasters are concerned about BPL interference to low-VHF TV channels and the possibility of interference to high-VHF stations from harmonics generated by BPL systems.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has been active in studying interference from BPL and expressing concerns about the engineering underlying BPL. The story FCC to Act on BPL Report and Order on the ARRL Web site quotes comments from a letter ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, sent to Commissioner Adelstein: "Because the FCC has been unwilling to release for public review the results of its own tests and observations of BPL systems, the ARRL has no confidence that the draft Report and Order will be based on sound engineering and believes the rush to adoption is unwarranted and premature.

"Without adequate safeguards, the deployment of BPL systems will result in the pollution and degradation of the unique natural resource of the high-frequency radio spectrum."

The ARRL story notes amateur radio operators are not the only ones with major concerns about BPL. According to a letter from Marilyn Ward, Chair of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) to the FCC, "BPL should not be considered simply as a source of interference but as a potential danger to life and property." Aeronautical Radio Incorporated (ARINC) presented a study that showed, "the real possibility of interference to aeronautical air traffic control and operational communications from broadband over power line (BPL) systems operating in the Aeronautical Mobile high frequencies." NPSTC's letter concluded, "we remain unconvinced that BPL can be deployed without causing harmful interference to mission critical public safety systems that directly impact safety of life and property throughout the United States."

ARRL said the real-world experience in several locations have shown "that the effectiveness of notching falls far short of the claims by BPL proponents."

Supporters of BPL say that these interference concerns are overstated and that the proposed FCC rules on BPL will put greater limits on BPL emissions than currently exist under Part 15. FCC rules clearly state that Part 15 devices are not allowed to interfere with licensed services, but the ARRL reported that the FCC has been slow to take action to eliminate interference to amateur radio operators. See The ARRL Letter for October 1, 2004. Also see Broadband Over Power Line (BPL) and Amateur Radio for a description of how BPL works.