Wednesday, 14 June 2017

RFI ... Radio Spectrum's Global Warming?


The FCC's recent publication of an Order and Consent Decree (DA-17-471) has me wondering if this action signals new interest in cracking-down on those who manufacture and distribute unapproved spectrum polluting noise-generating devices or is it just a once-in-awhile muscle flex with little change in overall policy ... hopefully it's the former!

Highlights of the agreed upon notice:

Section 302 of the Act authorizes the Commission to promulgate reasonable regulations to minimize harmful interference by equipment that emits radio frequency energy....Specifically....that “[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations....

.... the Commission establishes technical requirements for transmitters and other equipment to minimize their potential for causing interference to authorized radio services ... the Commission administers an equipment authorization program to ensure that equipment reaching the market in the
United States complies with the technical and administrative requirements set forth in the Commission’s rules. The equipment authorization program requires, among other things, that radio frequency devices must be tested for compliance with the applicable technical requirements in accordance with one of three authorization procedures—i.e., certification, Declaration of Conformity, or verification—prior to marketing.

... the Rules prohibits the marketing of radio frequency devices unless the device has first been properly authorized, identified, and labeled in accordance with the Rules ...

... a privately-held company that manufactures and distributes lighting fixtures that are used in residential and commercial properties ... under-cabinet LED light fixtures were reportedly causing interference to AM/FM radio transmissions. 

During the course of the investigation, the evidence revealed that ... the LED light fixtures were not tested and authorized under the Commission’s equipment authorization rules prior to marketing.

... the Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division issued a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) ... directing to submit a sworn written response to a series of questions relating to ... the marketing of its LED lighting fixtures in the United States.

... continued to market the light fixtures at issue for certain times during an approximately five-month period after receipt of the LOI.

Other highlights indicate that the company in question acknowledged their violation and agreed to appoint a Compliance Officer in charge of implementing new company protocols, including the retraining and education of employees dealing with compliance issues. As well, a $90,000 civil penalty was imposed on the company for the violation.

As a point of interest, I can't ever recall seeing similar notifications being released or reported here in Canada by our FCC equivalent, the ISEDC. Hopefully they also take similar actions, but if so, they don't seem to be reporting it ... perhaps I'm just not looking in the proper places.

As I've mentioned here previously, for too many radio amateurs, the growing noise floor throughout the radio spectrum has become a global threat for the healthy pursuit of our hobby. Even if we saw the immediate  implementation of rigorous new tight standards, crackdowns and prosecutions of offenders, it may already be too late to reverse the damage we are now seeing ... in many respects, it's the 'global warming' of the RF spectrum and there may be no turning back without immediate action.


G7VBR said...

Perhaps some Government facilities are suffering interference, that is the only way this problem can be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Around 1990 I performed FCC and DOC type acceptance tests as a service to radio importers. Equipment was tested for radiated and conducted interference using spectrum analyzers and calibrated antennas. My usual fee was $75/hour. I submitted the application on the client's behalf and tracked it through the government agencies concerned. In almost every case, the equipment complied and the approvals were granted in due course.

Once I was approached by an importer trying to market a wireless microphone made in Asia. The engineering was finished, and a specimen was supplied to me in a prototyped blister pack designed for marketing in English-language countries.

I tested it against FCC regs on our antenna range. I didn't have to check the harmonics and spurs. Its carrier was well over 10 times too powerful to comply under Part 15.

The client's view was that the product would not be marketable if it complied with the law. I shrugged, refunded him 50% of my usual fee, and wrote him a test report. I never heard from him again, but it is not difficult to imagine the outcome.

Steve, further to this topic, allow me to post my views on halogen kitchen puck lights. I can supply you a scope photo of the WORST wall wart waveform I have ever seen. Chirped AM and FM and probably other M's unknown to science. Damped waves. Hyperabrupt turnoff. So bad, it was able to barge in through the input chokes and put hash on the video of a VGA monitor plugged into the same AC circuit. So bad, it could mask every signal on my HF receiver with white noise. So bad, the halogen bulbs all burned out well before their normal lifetime. Somebody "back there" is just laughing.

But get this: the nasty wart could not kill a good old No. 1157 automotive stop bulb!! The bulbs I kludged in have lasted for years.


Steve McDonald said...

Hello Dan and thank you for the comments. Really nothing surprises me any longer when it comes to some of the junk that is being marketed without proper inspection. I had a similar experience several years ago when my next door neighbour installed low-voltage halogen track lighting in his bathroom. Each individual lamp had its own switching power supply!! He kindly allowed me to swap the system out for a 110V halogen system with no power supplies involved. I noted at the time that the low voltage (noisy ones) were being sold at Home Depot and I asked about them as they seemed to be in the process of discontinuing their sales. I was told that too many of them were being returned for burning out! I haven't looked lately but hopefully the low voltage ones are not so popular any longer.