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FCC Dealt Setback In BPL Push

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-can't-hear-you-now dept.

Networking 177

SonicSpike writes in with word that an appeals court has dealt a setback to the FCC's plans to encourage broadband over power lines. The court ruled that the FCC erred when it withheld parts of the studies it had used in arriving at its position on BPL. The court did not rule that the FCC's decision was incorrect or that it should be revisited. According to the article, about 5,000 people nationwide subscribe to BPL in 35 pilot projects. We've been discussing BPL for years. "...a federal appeals court has sided in part with amateur radio operators who challenged rules designed to speed the nascent Internet service's rollout. When setting rules for BPL operators nearly two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission said it was trying to encourage deployment of a 'third pipe' to compete with cable and DSL services, while establishing limits aimed at protecting public safety, maritime, radio-astronomy, aeronautical navigation, and amateur radio operators from harmful interference. The American Radio Relay League, which represents amateur... radio operators, however, promptly sued the agency, contending that the FCC's approach was insufficient to ward off interference with its radios and inconsistent with its previous rules. On Friday, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia on Friday issued a ruling (PDF) that took issue with the way the FCC arrived at its rules."

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177 comments

eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926625)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

GO SLIT YOUR FUCKING WRISTS FUCKTARD!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926823)

N/T

Re:eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926899)

No, eat your shorts !!!!!

What I really want to know... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927257)

How will this development set back Ubuntu's new network project? As you all know, with the introduction of 2010's "Nappy Nigger" LTS release Ubuntu is planning on proving a free BPL-based internet service codenamed "Imus".

There you go. Thanks FCC.

OLD NEWS!! April 28 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926655)

Nothing new here, Move on

Re:OLD NEWS!! April 28 (0, Redundant)

Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926677)

totally....first snails...now two months old news? is there somewhere to vote for worst news day ever?

Re:OLD NEWS!! April 28 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926747)

old enough that the link to the court ruling returns 404 not found

correct link [uscourts.gov]

The FCC Should Be Abolished (3, Insightful)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926665)

No where in the US Constitution is the federal government allowed to regulate communications. If the federal government wants to regulate communications they should've proposed an amendment to the States

And yes I am ham radio operator and the OP.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1, Insightful)

ya really (1257084) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926875)

I agree that that FCC does way too much meddling, but it does serve a purpose. If there was no regulation, think of how many douchebags out there would be treading all over each other's frequencies with their higher powered antennas. It's pretty certain there would be some who just dont like X's radio station and would just pump out static for spite as well. Now, if you say that the states should have control over the regulation instead, I'll totally agree with you. However, no regulation of frequencies is just a horrible idea.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926993)

I am not advocating anarchy over the airwaves.... just that the federal government shouldn't be involved. Per the 10th Amendment the federal government isn't allowed to be involved in regulation of communications. It should be left to the States.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927467)

It's kind of hard to leave it to the states. Rhode Island could make all the broadcast regulations it wants, but Connecticut and Massachusetts could just let their broadcasts bleed over into RI (in fact, it would be difficult for them to not do so)

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (4, Insightful)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929311)

Heres the thing... the FCC is also responsible for the coordination of how the radio spectrum is used. Some of the coordination activities are international.

For example, if I was to require some spectrum use in the 460 MHz region, the FCC would be responsible for issuing out a few frequencies (as well as transmission power limits) for my use in my area. If I was close to Canada or Mexico, the FCC would have to coordinate with those governments, if necessary.

Now, I didn't think states could draft up internatonal treaties, as would be required to coordinate radio frequencies between a commercial user here in a city in the US and either the Mexican or Canidian governments.

I think the big reason for having a federal level agency for coordination and regulation of communications is that radio is international, and subject to international laws. I don't think it would be workable if each state had to ratify international treaties, let alone ratify laws for domestic radio purposes (example: radio operator in IL can transmit to radio operator in KS...)

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (4, Interesting)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927009)

Agreed, we need regulation. Back in the 1970's I had a nice Bearcat Citizen's Band radio with an antenna on a mast and linear amplifier to run right at the legal limit. Back then, these waves were similar to the local Internet chat room of today except you likely knew the folks you were talking to in real life, assisting drivers with directions, etc. Plus we all used snazzy handles just like on the Internet today.

Starting in probably 79, a lot of people started using linear amps that were so powerful, you could pick their signal up from 30+ miles away and it would drown out channels above and below the one you'd be monitoring. These people were so ungodly annoying because you would not be able to respond to them, as they are out of range of probably 90% of the people who were getting their signal, and causing general mayhem for folks trying to hold down a conversation miles away.

If it hadn't been for the above, I probably never would have cared or understood, but just knowing how annoying random people can be with radio technology when enforcement is weak, makes me like the idea of reasonable regulations. If anything interferes with current radio infrastructure, it needs to go back to the drawing board until something is improved. It only takes five minutes with a portable scanner to see how many non-data, critical services are managed via radio and it's reasonable to suggest that any change to those would be far more expensive to society than not running Internet over power lines unless they are reasonably shielded.

CB plus ANY "linear" amplifier == illegal (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928371)

If you had *any* "linear" amplifier (RF transmitter power booster amp) connected to your CB radio, you were illegal. Back in the 70's, the FCC allotted you an absolute max of 5 watts of input power to the final RF amp in your CB transceiver. The transceiver had to be type-accepted by the FCC also, to be legal to be sold and used in the USA.

Re:CB plus ANY "linear" amplifier == illegal (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929171)

I think my station was only a couple of amps, but the amplifier was 5-7 amps at most. It all came from the Radio Shack down the street, but that was the 70s so lord only knows how legitimate it was in reality, as many Radio Shacks back then stocked items they wanted and not like the cookie cutter stores like they are nowadays. I got it to overcome some rather long cables between the station and the antenna. All I know for sure, nobody ever yelled at me over boosting and bleeding over to other signals.

I also had some knobs for tweaking reception in another box, but have no recollection of what it was called.

A lot of people chime in when I bring up something from the mid 70's, saying was illegal with a tidy link they Googled, but you have to remember that was a time when you had to hit the library to even begin to know what the laws were and many "illegal" items were on store shelves in small towns everywhere, even the police officers of the time didn't know, or care, about much of it. It wasn't until the mid-80's they even started to crack down on illegal firecracker sales around here. :)

Since when were linears ever legal on CB? (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928467)

The answer is never. The power limit was, and still is, 4 watts of carrier power for amplitude or 12 watts PEP for single side band. See the rules and regulations [reactintl.org] and note rules 9 and 10.

The other problem, even if the power limits are followed, is that some idiots have the idea that any amount of over modulation helps them be heard better so they get a "power boost" amplified microphone. They need to listen to their own transmitter from someone else's receiver. Oh, and those echo gadgets are another impediment to understanding what they are trying to say, if, indeed, it's anything worth listening to in the beginning. I only use a CB on the road when I'm on a long trip. It has definitely saved me time and aggravation, but it sure would be nice if it was cleaned up, both in signal quality and operator quality.

Beyond that, I agree with what you say. Reasonable rules and reasonable and effective enforcement are necessary to avoid chaos and unusability.

BPL is a horrible idea. At anything much above quite low frequencies, power lines are huge antennas.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926997)

Commerce clause + necessary and proper clause?

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

mixmatch (957776) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927077)

I find it hard to argue that most transmissions governed by the FCC are for the purpose of commerce between the states, with foreign nations, and Indian tribes, especially those that are radio-based with a range under 20-30 miles.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (2, Insightful)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927159)

The necessary and proper clause is NOT a grant of extra power. It simply means that Congress is authorized to do what is necessary and proper:

"Congress shall have power... to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States,"

And regulating communications is NOT listed in Article 1 Section 8 last time I checked.

Commerce clause means "to make commerce regular" among the States. In other words no trade wars, no tariffs, import taxes etc among/between the States.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

sgladfelter (889576) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928565)

I don't know why these sorts of arguments keep coming up.

When the constitution was written, radio didn't exist. Neither did lots of other things that the courts have decided that the federal government has the constitutional authority to regulate. Simply put, if the courts decide a law [like the one establishing the FCC] is constitutional, then it is [Marburg v Madison]. No matter what you think. I posted this elsewhere in the thread:

The FCC notes that the Supreme Court in 1969 upheld the government's authority to limit broadcast licenses. In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. vs. the United States, the high court held, "Congress unquestionably has the power to grant and deny licenses and to eliminate existing stations. No one has a First Amendment right to a license or to monopolize a radio frequency."

Source http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME01/Tree_Radio_Berkeley_Appendix.shtml [icce.rug.nl]

Although I'll say that if [I'd estimate] 4/9 of the Supreme Court had their way, then all of these regulatory powers that aren't explicitly stated in the constitution would go away. This is why the next election is so critical. So go out and vote!

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928935)

When the constitution was written, radio didn't exist.

So? That's exactly what Amendments are for!

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

sgladfelter (889576) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928581)

Obviously, I meant my other post to reply to one of these "Originalists" in the thread. Sorry 'bout that- too bad he won't get to read my fabulous arguement!

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (4, Insightful)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927127)

No where in the US Constitution is the federal government allowed to regulate communications. If the federal government wants to regulate communications they should've proposed an amendment to the States

And yes I am ham radio operator and the OP.

As a ham radio operator, you should be knowledgeable enough to realize that the entire radio spectrum would be unusable trash without regulation. Our hobby would be dead. Most of our equipment goes up to 50, 100, maybe 200 watts (if you have a really expensive rig) tops. How in the hell would you get your signal heard above all of the companies using huge swaths of the spectrum at high wattages simply because that's the only way they can be heard? Should all ham radio operators have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on many-kilowatt linear amplifiers just to penetrate the noise?

And if you think amateur radio would be bad off, cell phones wouldn't even exist. Cell phones put out a puny 5 watts at max; there's no way you'd ever get through the noise with that.

C'mon, think. The government is necessary for some purposes. Regulating and protecting a public resource like the radio spectrum is one of them.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1, Insightful)

SonicSpike (242293) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927193)

I didn't say it shouldn't be regulated. I said the federal government isn't allowed to regulate it per the US Constitution.

Unless an amendment is proposed and ratified, it should be handled by the States. Read the 10th Amendment after reading Article 1 Section 8.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (2, Insightful)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927435)

So around New York which state agency would regulate? New York? Pennsylvania? New Jersey? Would they have to have agreements? What if it broke down? Hell, even CT and DE could get in on some of that action if the transceivers were big enough! What about satellite bands? Do I now need to clear my signal with 50 different regulatory agencies?

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927525)

What do Luxemburg, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands do?

You really should study the issue so you have some knowledge before commenting.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (2, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928761)

What do Luxemburg, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands do?

Mostly let the EU run things.

No... (2, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927505)

You're setting up a straw man - that is NOT what the OP said.

Federal regulation is, quite simply, unconstitutional. It is not a power granted by the Constitution.

State regulation of spectrum would be workable, and as proof I point to Europe where countries are the comparable in size to US States.

And yes, I too am a ham (extra class).

Re:No... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927607)

Those countries abide by the same treaty the US abides by. This international treaty calls for national goverments to regulate their radio emmissions in accordance with the agreed to spectrum allocation. By approving the treaty the US senate elevated thisrequirement to the "supreme law of the land" to quote the constitution's verbage on treaties. With a treaty in place, and with the comerce clause in hand, Congress was well with in the constitution when they created the FCC.

Re:No... (0)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927681)

Quite simply, the Federal government had no power to do so. Since they didn't have the Constitutional authority to regulate spectrum, they didn't have the power to negotiate or agree to a treaty, making it null and void.

Re:No... (2, Informative)

sgladfelter (889576) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928179)

The courts are tasked with the authority to review laws and judge their constitutionality [Marburg v Madison]. Since congress passed a law to establish the FCC and task them with regulating the radio spectrum, and the courts evidently believe that this falls under regulation of interstate commerce [Article 1 Section 8], then by default it IS constitutional.

The courts' opinion is the ONLY opinion that matters in deciding the constitutionality of a law. Why do you believe differently?

Re:No... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929007)

[Marburg v Madison]

Damn it, it's Marbury, not "Marburg!" Maaar-buur-yeee! You've fucked it up in two different posts already, and it's pissing me off, so quit it!

And every Supreme Court decision perverting the Interstate Commerce Clause was wrong, anyway, judicial review or not!

Re:No... (2, Informative)

sgladfelter (889576) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928317)

Can I also add to my other post that the Supreme Court has already ruled on this?

In Red Lion Broadcasting Co. vs. the United States, the high court held, "Congress unquestionably has the power to grant and deny licenses and to eliminate existing stations. No one has a First Amendment right to a license or to monopolize a radio frequency.

Here's the full text http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME01/Tree_Radio_Berkeley_Appendix.shtml [icce.rug.nl]

Re:No... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23928155)

> Federal regulation is, quite simply, unconstitutional.
> State regulation of spectrum would be workable,

Because the only thing better than one set of byzantine regulation is 50 sets of byzantine regulation?

No thanks. And yes, I too am a ham.

I don't agree (4, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928559)

I think the Commerce Clause doesn't have to stretch very far to cover radio communication that can go worldwide; that is, radio communication clearly influences interstate commerce, so I think the Constitution grants Congress the power to make law about it fair and square.

I think you're wrong on the facts as well as the law. The only reason to let each state make its own regulations (assuming its not required by the Constitution, vide supra) is if they are going to regulate differently, because, e.g., the citizens of state X have different needs than citizens of state Y, or because X believes it has a better idea than Y and we want to let them all try their individual plans out, to see which is best (the "50 laboratories of democracy" concept).

But even if that could be argued to make some kind of sense for VHF and UHF, it makes no sense at all for HF and AM, where signals easily cross many states. The states could not, in practise, make different regulations for those parts of the spectrum without chaos resulting. So if the state must, as a practical matter, all regulate in the same way, what's the point? Why not just have the Feds do it? Why have 50 wasteful duplicative efforts that must reach the same result?

(And since we're signing our bona fides here, I have an Extra ticket, too.)

Re:I don't agree (1)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929397)

I may only be a General, but I agree with you.

I also thought only the federal government could draft and/or ratify international treaties. (For example, the state of IL can't declare war on Canada, nor could it ratify the Kyoto protocols on its own as only the federal gov could do those actions...) Obviously radio is international as we are well aware.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

kfort (1132) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927695)

I'm an ham radio operator and I agree. There would be more interference, but at the same time we could develop technologies to combat the interference using less power using stuff like DSP and spread spectrum.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928497)

I agree too, but I disagree in that it will never happen as you would like.

Our federal government likes too much control, and we have allowed it to continue. The only way to go back to states rights is to go before the civil war, and no militia from bumfuck is going to fight. It will come down to the states seceding from the union, as it did once before. I'd rather leave for somewhere nice, like Australia, Switzerland, or Japan before that crap happens. I want no part of that.

Our federal government shouldnt have any power to control in-state substances, nor control firearms, nor even have the fed. It's just not a power granted to Congress, but that doesnt stop them. It's pretty much wishful thinking on the part of Ron Paul and other Constitutionalists. It should happen, but wont.

Re:The FCC Should Be Abolished (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929117)

Keep on blowing that states-rights horn.

The small-federal-government-big-state-government folks have been around for as long as the US has.

It was tried. It didn't work. The US isn't divided culturally, economically, racially, etc... according to state borders. There's barely enough interest in the democratic process to keep the federal government going, let alone the states.

Ron Paul's not a bad man, but you've got to realize why he voted against all of those things in your sig.... If it were the state of Texas proposing any of them, he (by his own admission) would have voted 'Yes' to virtually all of them. Reading his campaign platform was eerily similar to my 17th-century American history class in high school. I mean.... the guy wants to abolish the federal reserve and go back to the gold standard. Does this mean we'll see a resurgence of the Whig party to oppose him?

!Data (3, Interesting)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926667)

My father in law lives in west bumfuck, farmland. They tried for years to get BPL working there. But the sad fact of reality is that powerlines just arent up to the task. His community sunk massive funds into that project and they only ever managed to serve like 10 customers. And it was slow. And they all left for some type of LoS wi-fi. (I know not the underlying tech that went in, but its several towers at the tops of hills, and he himself had to install a 4 story tower in his yard.) They have all been very pleased with their wi-fi. And it was much cheaper than the powerline nonsense.

Re:!Data (2, Funny)

blindseer (891256) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927871)

My parents live in east bumfuck, farmland while one of my brothers lives in south bumfuck, farmland and at both houses they have DSL. Satellite has been an option for a while now. Cell phone networks as well. Both are getting faster and cheaper as infrastructure is built up and competition sets in.

BPL is a dead end. With the interference it produces along with the expense it just doesn't make sense.

Beyond Amateur Radio ops (4, Informative)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926725)

BPL's interference can have detrimental effects well beyond the ham bands. They can take out local emergency comms if BPL interferance is high enough. For a visual example of whats going on here, check out this video [youtube.com] . It shows plainly the kind of interference BPL can cause.

Frequency Questions (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926889)

Good video, thanks. Why aren't they using frequency hopping to mitigate interference?

Also, why does BPL need to interfere on this frequency band? Isn't this tunable?

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926991)

Why aren't they using frequency hopping to mitigate interference?

That is not as easy as you think with HF especially mobile because your antenna is cut to be used on a narrow range of frequencies. For example on 40m (about 7 megacycles) when I operated HF mobile, I would get about 100kc bandwidth at 2:1 SWR (7.050 - 7.150). Frequency hopping would not work at all for me.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927259)

I think I wasn't clear in my question (or didn't understand your answer). To be more precise: why don't the BPL operators use frequency hopping so they're not stepping on the Ham guys' range so drastically?

Re:Frequency Questions (3, Informative)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927873)

He answered your question rather effectively.

BPL uses a modulated carrier around 6 meter (~50 MHz). Our amateur licensed transmitters can transmit from 50MHz to 54MHz. And as we learn with radio, a transmitter is also a weak receiver and vice versa. I know that BPL uses a carrier in that band, but I am unsure of the exact frequency allocation.

Because they use that carrier, the whole power grid turns into an antenna. That prevents us from using much of 6m. Along with that, if we use a linear amp (say 1kW) to poke out of the interference zone, which we are legally allowed to do, we inject our signal back in the power lines eliminating the broadband in BPL.

And as a note, 6m is known to do atmospheric bounce for thousands of miles. I was at one Field day where we used a 1 watt transmitter and contacted someone in Rio de Janerio (sp?).

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928083)

He answered your question rather effectively.

BPL uses a modulated carrier around 6 meter

Help me out then, because I must be really missing the concept. Isn't the point of frequency hopping spread spectrum that there is no carrier wave? Wouldn't eliminating the carrier wave greatly reduce the interference problem?

I'm not disagreeing with your explanation of how BPL works at all or what the HAM issue is - I'm wondering why it needs to be designed that way in the first place.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928665)

Frequency hopping does not eliminate the carrier wave, it just moves it around on a set schedule. Imagine you and a friend both had an FM radio with a digital tuner, and a computer that produced pseudo-random numbers between 88E6 and 108E6. You could use the computer to program the radio with a new frequency every second. As long as you kept the two computers synchronized with each other, both radios would shift to a new frequency every second. You are still using conventional FM to communicate. The only difference is that the carrier frequency is changing every second. This makes it hard for other people to jam or intercept your communications if they don't know the algorithm used in the pseudo-random number generator.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929129)

Right, but if the BPL were frequency hopping and the hams were on a fixed frequency wouldn't BPL sound like an occasional microsecond of static rather than a continuous source of interference?

Perhaps I'm greatly overestimating the amount of bandwidth we're talking about. I'm not suggesting that the BPL ought to interfere with ham operations, but it doesn't appear to do anything to mitigate the interference either. And I still don't understand why it has to operate on these frequencies.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928195)

Sorry, I didnt answer this either, but I know it intuitively from working on this stuff.

We have simplex (talking on 1 channel). That is what BPL uses, as it stays in 1 spot on the frequency chart. X watts is emnated at this frequency. That means that specific frequency is essentially blasted out. Why? Modern receivers can receive signals as low as a nanowatt, along with major noise reduction equipment and finely tuned band-pass filters.

0000/\0000
___/--\___

Is what it looks like. One swath is cut out. Now, if we go with FHSS (frequency hopping spread spectrum), we raise the noise floor. Now, normally we would destroy one channel on 6m. Instead, FHSS would raise the whole 6m spectrum making the whole 6m band purely unusable.

_/\__/\_
00000000

There's crappy ascii arts of where the spikes and noise floor would be. It's more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

colfer (619105) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927389)

Don't think it's tunable. They try to "notch out" the ham and other frequencies so as not to interfere. Not clear if it's working. The whole electric line becomes an antenna.

I live in one the three "deploying" areas on this map: http://www.bpl.coop/deploymentmap.php [bpl.coop] and I can tell you the thing is so many years behind schedule that the local power company (co-op actually) has removed all updates from its website. Previously it said it was deployed at one substation so far, which would mean a few hundred homes out here at most.

We are far enough out that our power service is still partially subsidized by a federal agency, successor to the 1930s Rural Electrification Administration. That's how they got the grant for this, apparent, train wreck.

Re:Frequency Questions (2, Interesting)

colfer (619105) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927569)

Ironically, radio interference played a role in the biggest natural disaster in this area (I am replying to my own post). In 1969 the largest hurricane in US history [wikipedia.org] jumped 800 miles inland and killed 157 people here in the mountains. Emergency response was hampered by a radio silence zone established to protect the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory several counties away in West Virginia.

Re:Frequency Questions (3, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928737)

The Radio Quiet Zone still exists, but the observatory works effectively these days with local hams to make sure they can communicate and that there will be working repeaters, etc. when the next emergency comes up.

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929049)

Why aren't they using frequency hopping to mitigate interference?

Why should they have to?

Re:Frequency Questions (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929061)

Never mind, I thought you were talking about the amateur radio operators, rather than the BPL operators.

Re:Beyond Amateur Radio ops (4, Funny)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927147)

I usually don't read YouTube comments because they tend to be racist, trollish, or just plain inflammatory in general. But the first one underneath the video is priceless:

"I think the most disturbing part of this entire video is that every vehicle shown in motion is driving on the wrong side of the road. BPL seems like a minor issue in comparison."

Re:Beyond Amateur Radio ops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927641)

Is that fair to say that BPL has been designed for countries with a reasonably modern power infrastructure?

That would obviously mean buried power lines in a city...

Re:Beyond Amateur Radio ops (2, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927239)

How would it interfere with emergency services?

BPL carriers are in the 10-30 MHz range, and public safety is typically in the 800 MHz band.

Re:Beyond Amateur Radio ops (2, Interesting)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927321)

Correction: trunked (frequency hopping) public safety is in the 800MHZ band (usually). Many fire departments, police departments and the like haven't bought or don't use (for whatever reason) trunking systems. The sherrif's dispatch where I live is 47.9 MHZ.

Re:Beyond Amateur Radio ops (2, Informative)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928437)

Also, one of my neighbours is a ham. He and many other hams use their radios to aid emergency services when normal communication lines are down. In the recent San Diego fires he relayed calls for the fire department in the area, since their systems couldn't handle the load. If BPL interferes with Ham radio, it interferes with emergency services.

Unfortunately, its a losing battle (2)

LM741N (258038) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926811)

BPL is just one of a thousand different devices that pollute the HF and VHF spectrum. Computers, laptops, touchlamps, plasma TV's (are the worst). Just about any device that uses high speed digital circuitry or switch mode power supplies. In computers, spread spectrum clocks are used to get pass FCC emission requirements, but if you live in a dense neighborhood where people leave their computers on 24/7, that doesn't help much.

Re:Unfortunately, its a losing battle (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926923)

BPL is just one of a thousand different devices that pollute the HF and VHF spectrum. Computers, laptops, touchlamps, plasma TV's (are the worst).

BPL is the only one that has a huge ass antenna to radiate the RFI with (ie the lines themselves). I can deal with all of the other things you have mentioned. They are either easy to shield if they are mine or they belong to a neighbor and are too far away and sometimes they're even in a stucco house where the wire mesh for the stucco blocks out most anything from getting to me.

Re:Unfortunately, its a losing battle (3, Informative)

turbinewind (667970) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927039)

....is just one of a thousand different devices..

Except totally different. The longstanding regulations that govern the shared radio spectrum have been based on solid understandings of the nature of radio propagation. This new, radically different approach by the FCC, essentially ramming BPL into the radio service while ignoring the consequences and research (including their own) is a new, brief innovation.

I just doesn't work with the rest of the radio services. Only the tech-impaired politico lawyers that get appointed the FCC haven't figured this one out. Their own staffs have.

It's a lot like some of the Internet regulations that have bashed against the seawall of reality before sloshing back into seafoam. Never-the-less, the tech community has to fight and educate ot make it go away sooner, rather than later.

Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (-1, Flamebait)

zoikes (182347) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926837)

Perhaps we should scrap those antiquated rules...
after all, we don't provide hitching posts and water troughs outside public buildings anymore, do we?

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926971)

Twentieth Century...Yup, it is.
Let's see here Satelite communications, radio linked VOIP, long distance (>500 miles) wireless internet connections, digital voice and simultaneous wireless voice and data comm, TV and more; This is all stuff that Hams are expiermenting with and using.

Also don't forget, when disasters strike, ham radio is available for emergency communications within minutes. Your phone company, local authorities and internet provider may take days to restore their communications capabilities.

I live in the mountains... When the wild fires struck, there was no power, no phone, no cable, no cell phone. All I had was batteries and radio.

I hope you don't ever find yourself in the same situation if those antiquated rules are scrapped.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (2, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927001)

You can't scrap the laws of physics. And amateur radio operators were the first hackers. Wait until you're in a flood, a hurricane, or another natural disaster.

Or the next time you try to watch TV, listen to a radio, you'll use technology that hams invented, tested, retested, and helped put towards commercial use for your convenience.

Hams are hackers..... and were, far before your great grandfather was born.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927221)

And hackers are all self-important unsocialized assholes, so fuck 'em.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (1)

Ixtl (1022043) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927007)

Don't raise the ire of a fellow close-knit group of geographically disparate nerds. Internecine geek warfare is bad for all of us.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (4, Insightful)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927079)

Perhaps we should scrap those antiquated rules...
after all, we don't provide hitching posts and water troughs outside public buildings anymore, do we?

Are you even aware of the multitude of amateur radio digital modes that are in use these days? Saying ham radio is "twentieth century" makes as much sense as saying that automobiles are "twentieth century" — both have evolved considerably over time.

Just be thankful for us ham radio operators. Someday your ass might be saved in an emergency by a ham who is capable of getting a signal through when the communications infrastructure goes down. The Internet is a great thing, I'll grant you, but when power goes out across an entire region (like it did with the Northeast blackouts a few years ago), you're not going to get any net connectivity and you're not going to get any cell connectivity either. The only people who will be able to relay vital emergency messages will be ham radio operators working off of battery backups or generators.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23927281)

If the power goes out, BPL leaking into other frequencies isn't so much of a problem, is it?

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (4, Insightful)

dlgeek (1065796) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927443)

Yes, but with BPL causing interference all the time, there is no incentive to purchase, use, maintain, practice with, etc. amateur radio equipment. Ham radio is a hobby, if it can't be practiced for fun it won't be practiced at all.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#23929193)

Are you even aware of the multitude of amateur radio digital modes that are in use these days?
No. Care to enlighten me?

Someday your ass might be saved in an emergency by a ham who is capable of getting a signal through when the communications infrastructure goes down.
Any emergency that would take down our entire communications infrastructure would also seem likely to disable BPL. Problem solved.

Also, in that sort of global catastrophe, what are the odds of finding an actual Ham, and what are the odds of there being somebody on the other end to respond? Sounds like a first-aid course might be a better investment....

I know my hypothetical situation is ridiculous. However, so is yours.

There is indeed a place for decentralized civilian and military communications. However, I think we can safely begin to move away from analogue amateur radio. (I'm not sure how decentralized it is, but Iridium also strikes me as being as robust as you could ever wish for)

However, to me, Hams always came across as a bunch of condescending nutters clutching on to a technological relic, with a side of cold-war paranoia. I'd love to be proven wrong, but statements like "who will save your ass when..." certainly don't help their case.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (3, Informative)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927113)

The point is that the FCC withheld evidence that contradicted their decision, something the ARRL caught them on. Judge Rogers said,

"It would appear to be a fairly obvious propositioon that studies upon which an agency relies in promulgating a rule must be made available during the rulemaking in order to afford interested persons meaningful notice and an opportunity for comment."

Another judge, David Tatel, wrote,

"In this very case the Commission redacted individual lines from certain pages on which it otherwise relied...there is little doubt that the Commission deliberately attempted to exclude from the record evidence adverse to its position."

Amateur radio may not enjoy the popularity it once did, but it still works when your precious ethernet is buried in mud and the cell phones are down (e.g. Katrina) and is an essential cog in rescue operations when your average laptop is utterly useless. And BPL, by the way, is deader than amateur radio. Dallas just threw in the towel. There isn't much left.

KZ7B

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (1)

jcgf (688310) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927143)

Perhaps we should tie you to a tree, turn on the amp, and point a yagi at your scrotum. Since we will be using 2.4GHz, we will not cause RFI like BPL does.

73 mother fucker.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23928185)

When all else fails...have a Field Day!

The gloves are coming off this weekend as I challenge everyone (especially the naysayers) to a contest 4 days from now in the following venue:

Time: June 28-29
Location: Anywhere, USA (International parties also invited)

I challenge all you naysayers of Amateur Radio to take a serious look this weekend at what a modern-day 21st Century, efficient, coordinated communications network that is free of limits imposed by wires or distance, or even power lines...

and when you meet your local HAMS out in the field everywhere this weekend having a total Field Day with their hobby, remember this:

When the next disaster, hurricane, emergency or blackout occurs with catastrophic communications failure...P2P networks beyond wires will born within minutes under isolated, minimal power (batteries, solar, etc)...which exist to serve the public and save lives far more effectively than an energy-hungry internet of webs ever could...

When all else fails, Amateur Radio works!

73
___
CAPTCHA of the comment: COMMUNE

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (0, Flamebait)

nessman (1163349) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928609)

I'll be home fucking my wife, and the overweight smelly "hamsexuals" will be out circle jerking in a park somewhere because that's all they have to look forward to in life, that and the "hamfest" selling overpriced crap from the backseat of their beat-up Dodge Caravan with 20 antennas on the roof to people riding around in motorized scooters.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (2, Interesting)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927233)

Spun the dial on a shortwave radio lately?

The vast bulk of traffic that takes place on it is commercial and military, not ham.

It's just that hams, having the technical savvy, were the first to raise a stink about it.

Re:Ham Radio is *so* twentieth century (1)

driftingwalrus (203255) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927905)

For the most part, the ham bands are *not* covered by the average shortwave radio. Little wonder you don't see much traffic on it.

Misguided FCC (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926877)

..federal appeals court has sided in part with amateur radio operators who challenged rules designed to speed the nascent Internet service's rollout.

Hmm.. here's an idea. How about the FCC focus more on enforcing the roll-out of fiber optic services, like the telecommunication companies were supposed to [newnetworks.com] start doing over 10 years ago. No interference with amateur radio operators, faster and more reliable service for everyone too.

FCC sucks (2, Interesting)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926887)

Perhaps if they would get off their ass and do something about the non-competition in the market they wouldn't be having to go out of their way to find poor solutions.

Competition between classes isn't competition.

Re:FCC sucks (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928799)

Just ran out of mod points but I'm not sure why your point hasn't been brought up before. Putting the hurt on the phone companies would be the ideal solution.

o.O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23926947)

That's pretty amazing. I didn't know about BPL before, but hey, if it works, let it work...

~ joe.fisher999@gmail.com

Re:o.O (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23928397)

Perhaps if they were required to re-install all the power cabling such that it is properly ground shielded to prevent radio interference. But if they're going to do that with the infrastructure, people would be better off with fiber optic...

And speaking of radio spectrum, anybody putting together a 100W or less VHF TV kit to roll out in Feb 2009? (Not like anyone will be using analog on it when it opens up anyways, may as well give the neighbors some new programming to watch on their "outdated" sets...)

They did mandate new proceedings (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 5 years ago | (#23926989)

The court did mandate that the FCC conduct a new comment period, with the entire content of the studies they relied on entered into the record, and that they either explain their total rejection of one interference measurement parameter that they solicited comments on, or ellse adopt a different one and explain that. ...de K5ZC

Good decision by the Court (3, Insightful)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927037)

This was a good decision by the US Appeals Court. I'm an amateur radio operator myself (there's over 700,000 of us in the United States alone), and it wouldn't make any sense to severely degrade our performance for the benefit of only 5,000 people. Remember, amateur radio isn't merely a hobby: it's been proven useful time and time again in severe emergencies when the communications infrastructure goes down and no one else can get a signal through.

And even if you make the argument that the number of BPL customers will go above 700,000 at some point in the future, it's still not worth it. There's only one radio spectrum, but there's a large variety of ways to get data into households, the rest of which do not pollute the radio spectrum. There's simply no excuse for trying to send data along entirely unshielded power lines. They weren't designed for this purpose and they leak RF like mad. You want to get people access to broadband? Send the data through shielded cables — oh wait, that's what we already do for millions of people!

BPL is bad news (4, Informative)

40ohms (528261) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927277)

This is actually a good thing. The FCC was trying to push a technology that does not work well, interferes with others, and costs much more than some other ways of getting connectivity. Even if the Amateur bands can be notched out, the other frequencies suffer. There are a lot of other communications in the range of frequencies that BPL wipes out. The FCC needs to rethink their stance and pay attention to the laws of physics. If BPL is allowed to exist I believe there will be a time in the future we will regret the down side of this technology. In the places it is being used now there are a number of interference problems that keep different services either off the air, or make the use of that spectrum damn near impossible. There is also another side to the story. Licensed equipment transmitting in close proximity to a BPL system can shut down the BPL connection. The bottom line is BPL should never have been adopted. There are better, more effective and less costly ways of getting connectivity without polluting the HF spectrum.

Acronym Soup (0, Troll)

MLS100 (1073958) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927325)

Am I the only one who takes it as a personal affront when people use obscure or ambiguous acronyms.

These people just can't wait for someone to ask what the acronym means so they can go through the motions to utterly shame you.

For instance, if someone were to come up to me at the water cooler with this headline, it would go something like this:

===

Iam Beterthanyoo: "Hey, did you hear that the FCC was dealt a setback in the BPL push, it seems that BPL rollout is not going to be pushed anytime soon because there were problems with BPL research and BPL other things, and the BPL..."

Actual Message: PLEASE ASK ME WHAT BPL IS, I AM SMART AND KNOW THIS INFORMATION.

Me (interrupting): BPL?

Actual Message: Clarify please you pretentious fuck.

Iam: ..and the BPL statistics board.. huh? Yeah BPL. So anyway, the board was..

Actual message: I'll pretend I'm assuming you didn't hear me correctly so I can drive the knife deeper when you are forced to follow up.

Me (interrupting): No, no, what is BPL?

Actual message: Yes I must not have heard you the first ten times you said BPL.

Iam: Ohhhhhhh...

Actual message: Well gosh I just assumed that you must not have heard me correctly because you can't possibly be asking for clarification of something so obvious. I am shocked at your complete and utter ignorance.

Iam: BPL stands for Broadband over Power Lines.

At this point Iam likely will not be able to resume his story because it was all a ruse anyway and all he was doing was trying to fit the BPL acronym into some fragments of the story until he could put you in your BPL ignorant place, he really knows nothing beyond the headline and what BPL means.

This is usually where I will counterattack and ask a (seemingly) informed question about the story.

Me: Oh, Broadband over Power Lines, was the problem the recent state initiative on property rights of the existing fiber infrastructure?

Actual message: Fuck you.

Iam: Yes, yes, something like that I think.

Actual message: Uh oh I'm caught. Bail out, bail out!

Iam: Anyway I have to get back to work.

Actual message: I'm off to find another victim.

===

The mentality is the same as the groups of girls in school who would make up their own language to talk to each other, then turn to the person next to them in class and say something to them in the language, sparking giggles all around from those 'in the know', as though the person is a complete moron for not being able to decipher that he was just called a cootie face in a made up language, the moron.

Re:Acronym Soup (0)

Cliff Stoll (242915) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927529)

Well put!

I'm a ham, and I've thought that BPL meant "Brass Pounder's League", an elite group of ham operators who handled a lot of traffic.

I'm also a physicist; I walk out of colloquia when the speaker uses five acronyms I don't know. Seminar cookies aren't worth putting up with small minded arrogance.

I'm also a nonfiction writer. As the the parent posting suggests, acronyms kills your audience. Talk in tongues when you want to exclude others, when you're tight on bandwidth, or when you want to show you're a member of an in-group.

Re:Acronym Soup (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927995)

Dude, here is the first sentence from the summary: "SonicSpike writes in with word that an appeals court has dealt a setback to the FCC's plans to encourage broadband over power lines."

I guess there could be a (BPL) in there to make it somewhat clearer, but I get the feeling if someone walked up to you and said "Hey, did you see the game?", you would say "nope" but be thinking "Hey fuck you, I don't like football" even though it was baseball season.

Re:Acronym Soup (1)

MLS100 (1073958) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928379)

I didn't mean to criticize the submitter of this story in particular, just used it for a launchpad to my rant on obscure acronym dropping.

CQ CQ CQ (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927335)

CQ CQ CQ, N3XMQ anyone out there? How copy?

Re:CQ CQ CQ (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927745)

N3XMQ DE KC9JEF slashdot QRM K

Re:CQ CQ CQ (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#23928821)

Does anyone else think it's silly to use Q signals on radiotelephone, and for that matter on TCP/IP with its full error correction and ample bandwidth? I don't live in a QTH, it's a house. And instead of QSY, "would you please change frequency" sounds a lot clearer. It makes sense to use them on Morse Code transmissions, and with people who don't understand the same language.

Bruce K6BP

Power fluctuations bad ? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#23927821)

IANAEE, so please if any of you are, I hope you can enlighten me here.

I'm just guessing, but BPL would require some sort of low-power modulation on the circuit, right ? Wouldn't that potentially cause added strain on electrical components ? I'm basing this on the vicious damage caused by DC ripples to computer equipment... my limited electrical knowledge tells me the broadband signal would appear as voltage noise to anything plugged on the same circuit, which means more wasted current, thus more heat. Given the dozens of cheap Chinese power bricks that come with every gadget these days, I fear a lot of them would pop prematurely.

Am I completely out in left field here, or what ?

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