Monday, August 07, 2006

BPL Report called "misleading"

League Calls Manassas BPL Interference Report "Flawed," "Misleading"

NEWINGTON, CT, Aug 3, 2006 -- The ARRL has told the FCC it has found a radio interference report filed on behalf of the Manassas, Virginia, BPL system "flawed in numerous respects." The League responded this week to a July 17 letter and BPL interference study the FCC mandated following repeated complaints from local radio amateurs.

"ARRL objects to the report because it is based on improper engineering practice and contrary to the instructions provided by your office in your letter dated June 16, 2006," ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, wrote FCC Spectrum Enforcement Division Chief Joseph Casey on August 2. In June, Casey had ordered the City of Manassas and BPL provider COMTek to investigate complaints from several Manassas radio amateurs of BPL interference to their mobile operations and report back to the Commission on their findings. The League, and local amateurs, contend the BPL system is still causing harmful interference to Amateur Radio operations, despite the clean bill of health the engineering report purports to present.

"It did so both before and after the tests conducted by COMTek; and there is no doubt at all that the interference is from the COMTek BPL system operated in the City of Manassas and not from any other source." The League reiterated its demand that the system be shut down immediately.

"Unless the Enforcement Bureau is willing to do that, you are going to have to send Commission staff to observe this interference and conduct their own measurements in the presence of both COMTek and the local Amateur Radio operators who are receiving the interference," Imlay asserted. Manassas radio amateurs who have complained to the FCC about the BPL interference also have suggested that the FCC must investigate the problem firsthand.

The League maintained that COMTek "has filed incorrect and misleading reports" and has "manipulated the BPL system to show false readings." In particular, the ARRL -- and local radio amateurs -- suggest that the BPL system was not operating at peak user loading during the testing, as the FCC had ordered. Either that or COMTek and BPL equipment manufacturer adjusted system power levels downward for the testing, Imlay told the FCC.

In its August 2 letter, the ARRL pointed out that one complainant, Dwight Agnew, AI4II, never stated during a post-testing demonstration for Agnew and other Manassas radio amateurs that the BPL equipment was no longer causing harmful interference. The League said "it is beyond dispute" that BPL interferes with Amateur Radio, and it noted a 2005 Federal Computer Week article that quoted COMTek Vice President Walt Adams conceding the point.

"The Commission is going to have to investigate this matter itself, without advance notice to COMTek or the City, so that the system is not powered down or otherwise manipulated to show other than peak loading characteristics at the power levels typically used in Manassas," the ARRL stated. The League said it's clear that the FCC can't rely on reports from consultants hired by the system's operators while excluding the victims of the interference.

"It is obvious that COMTek and have done testing in various ways each time they go to the system," the ARRL said. "Their findings are not in agreement with each other."

The League concluded that in its dealings with the Manassas BPL system, the FCC has "completely ignored" Part 15 rules requiring a BPL operator, upon learning of harmful interference, to investigate and resolve it successfully within a reasonable time. "The recent submission of COMTek and the City have produced no resolution of the interference at all," ARRL said. "Rather, COMTek and the City have shown a complete inability, and now, by their denials, the unwillingness, to resolve the interference."

(Source: ARRL/