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Microwave Licensee Fined $6,000 for Operation on Unauthorized Frequencies

It isn't unusual to find microwave radios used in sporting events or for newsgathering that can be operated on a wide range of frequencies, some of which may not be authorized for broadcast auxiliary use under the broadcaster's or network's license.

While crews may be tempted to use these frequencies to avoid interference, a Notice of Apparent Liability (DA 09-1044) released Monday shows the FCC will not tolerate use of unauthorized frequencies. The FCC held the licensee responsible for the unauthorized operation even though they blamed a technician for unknowingly using the wrong frequencies.

In this case, Corr Wireless Communications LLC is accused of operating a Common Carrier Fixed Point-to-Point microwave link WPJD282 on 2168.45 MHz instead of its licensed frequency of 2165.20 MHz, and operating WMV851 on 2118.5 MHz instead of 2115.20 MHz. While these frequencies are very close to Corr's licensed frequencies, the FCC decided Corr was liable for a fine of up to $8,000.

Corr asserted it was unaware the stations were operating on the incorrect frequency, saying a technician may have "unknowingly caused the unauthorized operation." The FCC rejected this claim.

"As a commission licensee ... Corr is charged with the responsibility of knowing and complying with the terms of its authorizations, the act and the rules," the FCC said. "In this regard, the commission has long held that a downward adjustment of a forfeiture is not justified where violators claim their actions or omissions were due to inadvertent errors. Moreover, the commission has long held that licensees are responsible for the acts and omission of their employees and independent contractors, and has consistently refused to excuse licensees from forfeiture penalties where the actions of employees or independent contractors have resulted in violations."

The FCC reduced the apparent liability to $6,400 because "Corr undertook corrective measures after learning of its violations, but prior to any Commission inquiry or initiation of enforcement action."

Although Corr said it had not received any complaints of interference, the FCC investigation was triggered by a complaint.

Read all of RF Reporthere.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.