So far, there have been about 20 utilities contacted by the FCC. (Behind each
one of them can be from 5 to 100 hours of ARRL HQ staff time, as we try to
resolve it directly as part of the deal with Riley that got him into this
The letters Riley sends our are really "advisory letters," where the FCC
indicates that they have a report of interference and asks the utility company
to correct it if it is being caused by utility company equipment. Most of the
companies have complied, although a few are about to receive a second FCC
At this stage, none of them have gone to the next stages, although a few of
them are poised to do so. What Riley wants the ARRL to do with those is to
arrange a "second opinion," with the ARRL Technical Coordinator or Techncial
Specialist, or a club RFI committee, to verify that there is indeed noise and
that it is reasonable to believe it is coming from power-company equipment (and
not a noisy fluorescent light in the hams own house).
The FCC simply cannot take actual enforcment action against a utility based on
a complaint of interference, so if Riley can get this 2nd tier of verification,
he will turn the case over to the local FCC field office for investigation. The
field office will determine what steps might be necessary from there. This
could range up to and including fines, at the discretion of the FCC staff
involved. What will be a critical part of this step will be some guidance from
the FCC at the national level, to ensure that these cases are handled uniformly
at the field level.
If you are having a problem with your utility company, these are the steps to
1. Become educated. The info and links at
http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/rfi-elect.html will be a really good start. Use
this information in any way you think best to work with your power company.
(Any suggestions for improving this info are most welome!) I am hoping that
the text of the letter the FCC sends out will be a big help. My expectation is
that your power company will prefer reading the one on the ARRL web page to
having their CEO get a customized version of their own.
2. If you need any help or advice in working with your power company, contact
the ARRL RFI Desk, Mike Gruber, W1MG, firstname.lastname@example.org. Many of the exchanges are
best handled by telephone, so give him a call at 860-594-0392. Do keep in mind
that the priority of fixing a noise problem is going to be less than the power
outage at the hospital across town, and there are a number of steps the power
company has to go through, from the customer contact folks to the service folks
to the RFI troubleshooter to the crew that will do the actual repairs. It
ain't right, but these things are often resolved over the course of months, not
days. In many cases, the local guys want to help, but don't know what to do, or
have the right tools to do it. The best solution is to get them to go to RFI
Services training courses, but if they can't, the ARRL staff can offer them
some advice on what equipment and techniques they can use.
3. If you are not successful at getting your power company to work this out in
reasonable way, think long and hard about going way over the head of the local
guys. I suggest this deep thought because sometimes, going to the top can
undermine what may have been a salvageable relationship. What Mike Gruber will
need is your name, address, telephone and email, and the company name, CEO
name, address. If you can, also research the mailing address of your state
utility-control department and Mike will cc them. Mike then writes a letter
from ARRL to the CEO, under the wing of our cooperative relationship with the
FCC, explaining the rules and an offer to help. That letter includes a copy of
an excellent CD on power-line interference (the CD is also one of the links
from our rfi-elect web page.) The League then often works directly with the
power company, helping in any way possible.
4. So far, we are usually at 80%, with the company at least willing to address
the problem. If this all doesn't pan out, it becomes apparent that only a
letter from the FCC will get the company to move. We then pass the case along
to Riley. We give Riley a Readers Digest summary of the case and fill out the
"FCC letter," complete with the complaintant(s) name(s) and the mailing address
of the CEO. The .doc file we send him is formatted for his printer, so if Riley
agrees that the case merits an FCC inquiry, he prints and mails the letter. (It
is far from routine; Riley has been known to ask questions of ARRL before
proceeding.) This almost always works, but from there, it becomes a matter of
judgement on what steps are appropriate and ARRL is working closely with Riley
to fine tune the next steps.
It may seem to be a long route to work through ARRL before going to the FCC,
but this has been worked out after a lot of painstaking work and negotiations
with the FCC. The FCC staff simply don't have the time to put in up to 100
hours working with hams and utility companies to resolve cases; they simply
wouldn't be able to do it. The ONLY way that Riley can do the part of this
that ONLY the FCC can do -- send a letter on FCC letterhead, is if all
reasonable steps at "voluntary resolution" are followed first. Riley put it to
me much better than he realized at the time when, in thanks for a case we had
worked particularly hard at he said, "I don't know what we would do without
you... probably nothing." ARRL can scarcely afford this time either -- we have
a full-time RFI engineer who spends about half his time working on power-line
cases -- but the problem simply must be solved, or for many of us, ham radio is
over. Besides, we gotta' spend your dues dollars somewhere, and this seems a
might important place to put them!
There are many good reasons for power companies to want to fix these problems.
First, it is good customer service. Fixing power-line noise efficiently keeps
the FCC and other regulators where they belong -- in their offices bothering
other utility companies. As Mike Martin pointed out, power line noise can be
the canary in the mineshaft, pointing out serious problems before the line is
laying on the ground. Please let ARRL know how we can help.
Ed Hare, W1RFI
225 Main St
Newington, CT 06111
> -----Original Message-----
> From: EDWARDS, EDDIE J [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, November 26, 2002 1:25 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [RFI] Utilities contacted by the FCC
> Here's a question for some of you guys that've dealt with
> utilities and
> power line noise problems.
> I'm wondering if anyone on the list knows of a utility that has been
> contacted by the FCC regarding power line interference? If so, do you
> also have a contact at that utility or a phone number to call and
> inquire what sort of resolution was arrived at?
> Thanks for any info!
> 73, de ed -K0iL
> Eddie Edwards
> Omaha, NE
> RFI mailing list