I can only speak to what happens in Florida but I suspect the process
is more or less the same in most states.
The first step is to contact the utility's customer care call center
and request an interference investigation. If the utility makes a good
faith effort but is unsuccessful, it's likely the utility will give up
and ignore the problem by letting it fall through convenient cracks.
As the customer, you are responsible for continuing the fight to keep
the utility working on the problem. But how do you get their
The ARRL and FCC are generally a waste of time. The FCC won't get
involved in any significant way unless the interference affects
aviation or public safety systems. Other interference issues are
essentially ignored until all other avenues have been exhausted and a
sufficient period of time has passed i.e. 10 years. It took the FCC 10
years to fine a Florida utility for failing to resolve an interference
issue. Do you want to wait 10 years?? Probably not. So what to do?
Calling the ARRL may make you feel all warm and fuzzy but the League
has no enforcement power whatsoever. Letters from the League may
inspire attention until the utility realizes that the League can't
assess penalties or fines. Letters from the League are amusing reading
but they are powerless and carry no meaningful weight.
If the utility is unable or unwilling to resolve the interference
issue in a "reasonable" amount of time, the usual next step is to
contact the utility's customer care again (and again and again, if
necessary) and ask for a Customer Care Supervisor. Take a moment to
remind yourself to be POLITE and PATIENT. VERY, VERY POLITE and VERY,
VERY PATIENT. Above all don't even think about making threats. I
repeat, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT MAKING THREATS. Nor should you quote
Federal Law or State Law. Customer care people just take calls. They
usually don't have any other influence. They don't know all of the
company policies and practices (usually). They don't know how things
get done (usually) and they don't need or want your invective or
threats. There is significant turnover in customer care departments so
it's likely the person you talk to is new and still hasn't mastered
all the scripts on the computer screen yet. They just collect info and
pass it on.
Once you have a lock on POLITE and PATIENT and have assured yourself
that you won't make threats, make the call and ask for a customer care
supervisor so you can ESCALATE your case. Supervisors in customer care
talk to supervisors in other departments and the matter gets looked at
again. This may stimulate a more professional or qualified response.
The same rules about your behavior apply here. The customer care
supervisor will gather the facts and pass the info along to those who
can do something. Let them do their job peacefully.
If the escalation doesn't resolve the problem in 90 days or so, the
next step is to contact the state regulatory body that oversees
utility operations. In Florida, that's the Public Service Commission.
The PSC (or whatever your state's regulatory body might be called)
usually commands immediate attention because they control what the
utility can charge for electricity. If there are lots of complaints in
the state body's file when the utility comes asking for a rate hike,
the utility has to explain how those complaints were handled.
Utilities don't like that. They don't want anything standing in the
way of a potential rate hike.
In Florida, utilities usually give state regulatory inquiries the
highest priority. Department heads, supervisors, investigators and
anyone else related to the case are queried and steps are taken to
find a solution that will result in the fastest and quietest
This is usually as far as you have to go to get things fixed. If the
utility simply doesn't have the talent and equipment to find and
correct the problem, they usually call in a contractor (Mike Martin of
RFI Services) to locate the problem and work with a crew to fix it.
Only after years have passed and the utility and the state have
thrashed through the problem will the Feds even think about getting
involved. Even then it will take more years for them to investigate
and decide upon a fine. Complaining to the FCC is a waste of time.
The bottom line here is be persistent. Don't take no for an answer. Be
polite at all times but be persistent. Your patience will be tested to
the ultimate extreme (unless I'm working your case.) If you go
ballistic and start yelling and screaming, you will suffer with your
problem for years because no one wants to deal with a lunatic or a
discourteous whacko. Remember: you get what you give.
Use the power you have as a customer and consumer. Work with the
utility's customer care division. Make sure they know that you can go
to the state regulatory agency if your issue isn't fixed in a
reasonable amount of time. Do it nicely. No one responds well to
threats. If that doesn't work, make the call to the state regulatory
agency and learn about your rights. Do what they require (paperwork)
and let them advocate for you. Keep good records. Get names and
numbers. Always ask what the next step will be and when it will be
No utility wants bad PR or state intervention. They will usually bend
over backwards when the state comes calling. Remember: Be polite and
patient. If you behave like a lunatic your problem will never get
Frank N. Haas KB4T
Professional Interference Investigator
From: Kelly Johnson [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2010 5:54 PM
Subject: Re: [RFI] I will have you arrested
All well and good, but...what if the local utility won't do anything
after you pinpoint the pole? I have been trying to get a bad pole
fixed now for 2.5 years. They've been out here more than once, but
they have so far been unwilling to cut power to the neighborhood long
enough to rebuild the pole with 12KV lines on top. They will look at
the pole. They will listen. They've even tightened a bolt or two on
the lower half of the pole, but they won't get near the top of the
pole. Too bad I can't arrest the CEO of PG&E!
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