FCC Denies ARRL Request for BPL Rule Changes

If you've been following the BPL saga between the FCC and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, the commission released another chapter on April 17. The FCC’s Second Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 13-53) in the matter of amendment of Part 15 regarding new requirements and measurement guidelines for Access Broadband over Power Line (BPL) Systems, denied ARRL's petition for reconsideration filed on Dec. 20, 2011, arguing that BPL systems should be required to provide greater interference protection for Amateur Radio operations. The requested protection included full time notching of amateur radio frequencies and an increase in the required notch depth from 25 dB to 35 dB. The notch depth was increased to 25 dB in the FCC's Second Order on BPL. ARRL's petition had one comment in support of it and several comments against it, including Current Group, LLC, joint comments from Edison Electric Institute and the Utilities Telecom Council, and HomePlug Powerline Alliance.

The FCC notes in the Second MO&O that, “Were it significant to our resolution of this issue, we would note that ARRL is overly enthusiastic in characterizing amateur radio operations as 'ubiquitous.' According to Webster, 'ubiquitous' means 'existing or being everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered.' While mobile amateurs may potentially operate over appreciable parts of the overall landscape, there is nothing to suggest that at any given time, the cumulative geographic area in which actively operating amateur radio operations are occurring is anything other than minute; compare this to the extent of the potential area of operations of BPL that ARRL would have us significantly diminish.”

The Second MO&O makes an interesting read for insight on how the FCC weighs competing spectrum uses. We'll probably see more examples of this in the upcoming incentive auction rule making. While the Second MO&O isn't good news for amateur radio operators, utilities seem to have lost their interest in using BPL to provide residential Internet access and I've seen little news of it being used for smart meters so it may have little real impact. The speeds available with high frequency BPL technology pale in comparison to what's available by other means!

Doug Lung

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.