[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 103 (Wednesday, May 29, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 32165-32169]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-12746]


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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

47 CFR Parts 15

[ET Docket No. 04-37 and 03-104; FCC 13-53]


Broadband Over Power Lines

AGENCY: Federal Communications Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This document addressed a petition for reconsideration filed 
by the national association for Amateur Radio, formally known as the 
American Radio Relay League (ARRL). ARRL seeks reconsideration of the 
Commission's Second Report and Order in this proceeding relating to 
Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) systems. The Commission 
concludes that its previous decisions in this proceeding strike an 
appropriate balance between the dual objectives of providing for Access 
BPL technology--which has potential applications for broadband and 
Smart Grid uses--while protecting incumbent radio services against 
harmful interference.

DATES: Effective June 28, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Anh Wride, Office of Engineering and 
Technology, 202-418-0577, Anh.Wride@fcc.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This is a summary of the Commission's Second 
Memorandum Opinion and Order, ET Docket No. 04-37 and 03-104, FCC 13-
53, adopted April 16, 2013 and released April 17, 2013. The full text 
of this document is available for inspection and copying during normal 
business hours in the FCC Reference Center (Room CY-A257), 445 12th 
Street SW.,

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Washington, DC 20554. The complete text of this document also may be 
purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, Best Copy and 
Printing, Inc., 445 12th Street SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 
20554. The full text may also be downloaded at: www.fcc.gov. People 
with Disabilities: To request materials in accessible formats for 
people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic files, audio 
format), send an email to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & 
Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 
(tty).

Summary of Report and Order

    1. In the Second Memorandum Opinion and Order (BPL Second MO&O), 
the Commission addressed a petition for reconsideration filed by the 
national association for Amateur Radio, formally known as the American 
Radio Relay League (ARRL). ARRL seeks reconsideration of the 
Commission's Second Report and Order (BPL Second Order) in this 
proceeding relating to Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) 
systems. The Commission concludes that its previous decisions in this 
proceeding strike an appropriate balance between the dual objectives of 
providing for Access BPL technology--which has potential applications 
for broadband and Smart Grid uses--while protecting incumbent radio 
services against harmful interference. The Commission denies the ARRL 
petition for reconsideration; it does not raise new arguments based on 
new information in the record or on the Commission's new analysis of 
limited points as directed by the Court, nor does it demonstrate any 
errors or omissions in the Commission's previous decisions.
    2. In its Petition, ARRL again requested that the Commission modify 
the Access BPL rules to adopt mandatory, full-time notching of all 
amateur radio allocations (amateur bands), this time requesting notch 
depths of at least 25 dB. It bases this request on its contention that 
the Commission should acknowledge: (1) The unique and substantial 
interference potential of Access BPL systems relative to amateur radio 
HF communications; (2) the inapplicability and/or inadequacy of the BPL 
rules with respect to amateur radio interaction; (3) the clear 
necessity of mandatory, full-time notching by Access BPL systems of 
amateur radio allocations to notch depths of at least 25 dB; and (4) 
the absence of any negative effect on BPL systems of the obligation to 
maintain full-time notching of amateur bands. As discussed and as 
supported by the record, ARRL makes these arguments based on the same 
reasoning and facts that the Commission considered and disposed of 
previously in the BPL First Order, the BPL First MO&O, and the BPL 
Second Order. The Commission, again, is unpersuaded by ARRL's arguments 
and denies its Petition.
    3. Throughout this proceeding and in its judicial appeal, the ARRL 
has argued that more restrictive technical standards are needed to 
protect the amateur radio service from interference caused by 
radiofrequency (RF) emissions from Access BPL systems. The Commission 
has specifically rejected as unnecessary these repeated requests by 
ARRL for tighter emissions controls on Access BPL operations, more 
stringent interference mitigation measures, and requirements for 
avoidance of BPL operations in the amateur bands.
    4. The only changes adopted in the BPL Second Order were minor 
adjustments to the rules as proposed in the BPL RFC/FNPRM. 
Specifically, the Commission: (1) Modified the rules to increase the 
required notch filtering capability for systems operating below 30 MHz 
from 20 dB to 25 dB; (2) established a new alternative procedure for 
determining site-specific extrapolation factors, and (3) adopted a 
definition for the ``slant-range distance'' used in the BPL measurement 
guidelines to further clarify its application. As indicated, the 
Commission also explained its rationale for and affirmed its use of a 
40-dB-per-decade extrapolation factor for frequencies below 30 MHz.
    5. ARRL is not specifically requesting reconsideration of these 
minor modifications to the rules that were adopted in the BPL Second 
Order. Rather, ARRL is reiterating its previous request for mandatory 
full-time permanent notching of all amateur radio allocations, which 
the Commission considered and rejected in the BPL Second Order. In 
support of this request, ARRL makes several arguments, which the 
Commission considered sequentially.
    6. First, ARRL disagrees with the Commission's analyses and 
conclusions on the staff studies and their bearing on the adequacy of 
the Access BPL rules. ARRL argues that in the BPL Second Order the 
Commission discounts its own study conducted by its Technical Research 
Branch (TRB) by mischaracterizing the results and by attempting to 
distance itself from TRB's studies and recommendations. The Commission 
notes that in the BPL Second Order, the Commission discussed this issue 
at length, and explained its rationale with respect to each point of 
this same argument that ARRL first raised in its comments to the BPL 
RFC/FNPRM. ARRL makes no new argument here. ARRL here contends that 
TRB's studies (i.e., all of the 2003 and 2004 field studies and the 
July 2009 released documents) used scientifically valid methodologies 
and the Commission did not rebut them as a technical matter. ARRL 
specifically did not agree with the Commission's assessment in the BPL 
Second Order regarding the video files of the now-defunct BriarCliff 
Manor experimental BPL system (BriarCliff Manor video5) 
recorded on August 17, 2004 that were part of the released July 2009 
staff materials. In this regard, the Commission notes that it explained 
in detail the particulars of that experimental BPL system and the 
reasons why it did not rely on TRB's technical findings, stating that 
``. . . it does not appear that any of the mitigating features that are 
required in the rules had been applied to this experimental BPL 
system'' [at the time the video clip was made.] In particular, the 
Commission noted that ``our staff did contact the licensee about 
interference from that system several times over the course of its 
operation and the operator took steps first to cease operation on the 
amateur frequencies and then to install new equipment that had notching 
capability. Subsequent examination of that system by field agents of 
our Enforcement Bureau (EB) found no interference, which substantiates 
the effectiveness of our rules when properly observed.'' The Commission 
further observed that it pointed out with in-depth analyses in the BPL 
Second Order that it simply did not draw the same conclusions from the 
released studies and materials as ARRL did, and that ``in some cases, 
ARRL simply (and incorrectly) draws different conclusions from the . . 
. [staff studies and] presentations than we do.'' ARRL has made no new 
argument with respect to this contention that was not already 
considered and disposed of in our earlier decisions.
    7. ARRL also repeats its disagreements with the Commission's 
assessment of the nature of Access BPL technology. It questions the 
Commission's reasons for not imposing conducted emission limits on 
Access BPL and instead atypically imposing only radiated emission 
limits. It contends that according to several BPL standards, the actual 
conducted emission level for BPL is approximately 30 dB higher than the 
conducted emission levels for other part 15 devices that are not 
carrier current systems. Note that the Commission discussed

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this issue in the BPL First Order in which it explained that because 
Access BPL signals are transported on medium voltage power lines of up 
to 40,000 volts, there would be extreme safety issues for test 
personnel involved in connecting test equipment that would have to be 
able to measure conducted emissions in such high voltage lines. This 
determination is now long-since established and ARRL did not submit any 
new information in its reconsideration petition here.
    8. ARRL also argues that the BPL Second Order did not address why 
the emission limits for BPL are set at levels as much as 25 dB greater 
than the generally-accepted median levels of ambient noise in typical 
environments and more than 45 dB greater than the quiet rural 
environment that represent the more quiet times and frequencies within 
an amateur band. The Commission notes that the emission limits for 
Access BPL are the same as the general emission limits in Sec.  15.209 
of the rules for other part 15 intentional radiators, which have been 
in existence in various forms for over 50 years; furthermore, as was 
discussed in the BPL Second Order, ``to minimize the potential for 
harmful interference, facilitate its resolution where it may occur, and 
address cases where it's possible occurrence could impact critical 
services, the Commission adopted additional regulatory measures beyond 
the emissions limits in the part 15 rules.'' With regard to the ambient 
noise levels (noise floor), the Commission discussed these issues at 
length in the BPL Second Order and provided additional protection for 
all licensed services, including amateur service, by requiring an 
increase of 5 dB in the notching capability of Access BPL systems.
    9. ARRL disagrees with the Commission's conclusion in the BPL 
Second Order that BPL systems increase the noise floor only within a 
relatively short distance (15-400 meters) from the power lines; it 
complains that this ``unquantifiable increase in noise floor'' is 
apparently not acceptable to the Commission when the victim operates in 
a U.S. Government frequency band (e.g., aeronautical service) but is 
acceptable when the victim is an amateur radio station. ARRL argues 
that this treatment of different licensed radio services is arbitrary 
and capricious on its face. The Commission notes here that in both the 
BPL First Order and the BPL Second Order, the Commission discussed at 
length the reasons for its decision to designate only certain 
frequencies used by ``critical'' Federal Government services as 
recommended by NTIA, as being excluded from Access BPL usage (only 2% 
of the spectrum within the 1.7-80 MHz band qualify as excluded 
frequencies.) Although ARRL has repeatedly requested to have all 
amateur HF and VHF allocations be included with critical Federal 
Government services, the Commission found, and still finds, that 
amateur radio frequencies do not warrant the special protection 
afforded to frequencies reserved for international aeronautical and 
maritime safety operation. In this regard, the Commission notes that 
amateur frequencies are generally used for routine communications and 
hobby activities, notwithstanding the fact that amateurs may on 
occasion assist in providing emergency communications. The Commission 
finds that the recently released information in the staff unredacted 
studies did not provide any new information not already known to the 
Commission and ARRL did not bring any new information on this issue on 
reconsideration.
    10. ARRL next points to issues regarding the interference potential 
from Access BPL systems to amateur radio operations. It argues that in 
the BPL First Order at paragraph 39, the Commission was wrong in 
stating that BPL is not an efficient radiator, and that BPL 
interference actually permeates large areas because overhead unshielded 
power lines exist throughout residential areas, not just along one line 
of one roadway. The Commission addressed this issue in the BPL First 
Order, making reference to the NTIA Phase 1 Study in which NTIA agrees 
with the Commission that these systems are not efficient radiators, nor 
are their emissions cumulative such that they permeate areas in which 
they are located. The Commission also addressed ARRL's repeated 
argument that BPL causes preclusive interference over large areas in 
the BPL Second Order. ARRL did not bring any new information or 
argument to this issue on reconsideration.
    11. In requesting reconsideration of the Commission's decision to 
decline its request for full-time permanent notching of amateur bands 
in the BPL Second Order, ARRL claims that the Commission ignores the 
ubiquitous nature of amateur radio and such a decision completely fails 
to prevent interference to mobile stations. It argues that a mobile 
amateur station should not have to drive outside an entire city or 
community in order to be able to communicate. The Commission discussed 
the issue of mobile communications in detail along with the variability 
of levels in HF communications, stating in part that ``. . . the 
significant variability in background noise levels limits the 
reliability of HF signals below 30 MHz such that BPL emissions at . . . 
[the limit required in the rules] . . . should not generally be 
considered harmful interference;'' however, ``to take a more 
conservative approach [the Commission] decided to provide additional 
protection to mobile stations by increasing the required notch depth 
from 20 dB to 25 dB.'' ARRL did not bring any new information to this 
issue on reconsideration.
    12. ARRL also states that on December 29, 2010, it submitted a BPL 
interference complaint jointly to the Commission's Enforcement Bureau 
(EB) and Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) regarding some BPL 
systems operated by International Broadband Electric Communications 
(IBEC), and on February 10, 2011, it submitted a request to OET to set 
aside the certification grants for the equipment used by these IBEC BPL 
systems. ARRL argues that because no action has been taken on these 
complaints, the rules should require permanent notching of amateur 
frequencies since post hoc enforcement of interference issues is not 
adequate. Over the years, the Commission has investigated and taken 
action on BPL complaints where it appeared that it was warranted. In 
the early period of BPL development, before the rules were in place and 
compliant equipment was in use, some of our investigations took time to 
complete. After the rules were established in 2004, there were fewer 
incidences of interference complaints and we have had cooperation from 
the BPL system operators to resolve them. Before the Commission could 
take action on ARRL's December 2010 interference complaint and February 
2011 request regarding IBEC, IBEC had started the shut-down of all its 
BPL operations, making investigation of its operations as they related 
to the complaints moot. This anomalous case cannot be extrapolated to 
conclude that the Commission does not have the capability and/or 
readiness to enforce its BPL rules. To the contrary, the Commission has 
diligently investigated previous complaints about interference from BPL 
systems.
    13. ARRL further disagrees with the Commission's assumption in the 
BPL Second Order that the BPL operator has a strong incentive to 
voluntarily utilize full notching of the amateur bands in the vicinity 
of amateur radio operators for interference mitigation unless full-time 
permanent notching of amateur bands throughout a BPL system is required 
by the rules. The Commission

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reiterates here, to the contrary, that ``[g]iven that identification 
and resolution of harmful interference can involve expenditures of 
staff time and resources for Access BPL providers and possibly the 
temporary disruption of service to their subscribers, these providers 
have a strong incentive to take a priori steps to ensure that they 
avoid causing interference to the local radio services, including 
amateurs''. ARRL has not provided a basis for reconsideration of this 
position. As for ARRL's complaint that IBEC BPL systems in operation in 
North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania at one time did voluntarily 
notch amateur bands but stopped doing so, IBEC and other operators were 
not obligated to notch, or continue to notch, the amateur bands on a 
full-time, system-wide basis. The Commission does not see a reason to 
consider the IBEC experience involving a single interference complaint 
for a system that was ultimately shut down to be a basis for imposing a 
mandatory notching requirement. In any event, ARRL fails to relate that 
in the decision which it challenges here we merely noted the likely 
incentive for BPL operators to notch where that provides the most 
efficacious approach for dealing with potential interference issues. We 
clearly did not rely on voluntary, full-time, system-wide notching as a 
basis for our rules at that time nor do we now.
    14. ARRL next contends that the Commission ignored several sources 
that point to a high probability of interference from Access BPL to 
existing HF and VHF spectrum users. In accordance with the Court's 
mandate, the Commission analyzed all relevant information and explained 
in great detail in the BPL Second Order that it is not persuaded by 
ARRL's technical submissions, including the reports and technical 
standards referenced in its numerous filings, that our assessment of 
the interference potential from BPL operations was incorrect or 
inappropriate, or that modifications to the BPL emissions limits and 
other technical rules to provide additional protection for the amateur 
service are warranted. In its instant Petition, ARRL specifically 
argues that the Commission did not discuss an OFCOM study on In-House 
BPL in our consideration of Access BPL interference potential. However, 
that report was not given significant weight in our deliberations 
because it specifically covers In-House BPL, the operating 
characteristics of which are significantly different from those of 
Access BPL and therefore render that report not substantively relevant 
to the issues under consideration in the present proceeding.
    15. ARRL repeats its argument that the BPL database contains many 
errors that undermine the usefulness of the database as a tool for 
interference mitigation. In the BPL Second Order the Commission 
encouraged the database administrator, the Utilities Telecom Council 
(UTC) to be diligent in its management of the database and other 
interested parties to work with UTC in providing information to ensure 
that the records in the database are accurate and up-to-date, and UTC 
affirmed that the database has been and is being reviewed periodically 
to ensure that the information is currently accurate. The Commission 
also notes that there could be some period of time between the date a 
BPL operator enters information into the BPL database regarding a near-
future deployment and the actual deployment date, which might depend on 
business conditions, financial obligations, change in business plans, 
etc. The Commission expressed its expectation that UTC periodically 
contact its BPL database members to ensure that obsolete information is 
removed or updated and we have counseled UTC on its obligations. While 
the Commission expects the BPL database to be maintained to accurately 
indicate the status of BPL operations, it nonetheless note that an 
Access BPL system that ceases to operate without updating its database 
information does not pose an increased potential for unanticipated 
interference. If any specific cases of BPL operators failing to provide 
information to the database in a timely fashion as required by Sec.  
15.615(a) of the Commission's rules are brought to our attention, the 
Commission will consider taking enforcement action as appropriate.
    16. ARRL next takes issue with the alternative procedure for 
determining site-specific extrapolation factors for BPL systems adopted 
in the BPL Second Order. ARRL again complains that measurements at four 
points are inadequate to establish a reliable extrapolation factor. 
ARRL again repeats its original argument that measurements should be 
made along the power line for each measurement distance from that line, 
and that the maximum value at each distance from that line for each 
frequency be used for the calculation. The Commission reiterates that 
while it did not adopt ARRL's suggested procedure involving the number 
of measurement points along the power line, our new method for 
determining site-specific extrapolation factors follows the IEEE 
Standard P1775-2010 that requires measurements to be made at a minimum 
of four points; however, depending on the specific installation site, 
this method could require measuring many more data points in order to 
establish a straight line with a minimum 0.9 regression coefficient of 
multiple correlation. This multiple-point requirement and the resultant 
potentially numerous measurements counter ARRL's repeated concern that 
having measurements at ``only four points'' is ``woefully inadequate.'' 
The Commission has analyzed and rejected ARRL's proposal in the BPL 
Second Order in favor of the procedure published in the IEEE Standard 
P1775-2010, which the Commission also noted was an improvement over 
current practices, and ARRL makes no new arguments here.
    17. ARRL further argues that since the Commission acknowledged in 
the BPL Second Order that there is variability in the attenuation of 
emissions from BPL systems across individual sites that are not 
captured by a uniform extrapolation factor, full-time notching of 
amateur bands is called for. However, this is one of the stated reasons 
for which the Commission adopted the alternative procedure for 
determining site-specific extrapolation factors. The Commission noted 
that the option to use site-specific values can substantially alleviate 
the measurement concerns associated with the standard extrapolation 
factor and the variability in attenuation rates that may be observed in 
the field, and particularly where measurements at a site may plainly 
not appear to conform to the 40-dB-per-decade standard. The Commission 
again observes that it has addressed ARRL's concerns with the 
alternative method for determining site-specific extrapolation factors 
at length in the BPL Second Order, and ARRL makes no new arguments 
here.
    18. ARRL also continues to dispute the Commission's decision to 
retain the existing 40-dB-per-decade value for the standard distance 
extrapolation factor for BPL systems. The Commission discussed this 
issue at length in the BPL Second Order and concluded that there is no 
single ``correct'' value for an extrapolation for RF emissions from 
power lines due to a multitude of reasons and that there is no basis 
for changing from the longstanding 40-dB-per-decade standard. However, 
the Commission notes that by explicitly providing that ``slant-range'' 
distance is to be used in conjunction with the extrapolation factor 
when calculating the emission levels, the existing 40-dB-per-decade 
extrapolation factor produces values that are closer to what ARRL 
calculates using what it believes to be the correct extrapolation 
factor (20

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dB per decade). Here, ARRL agrees with the Commission that the slant-
range method may be a slight improvement over using horizontal 
distance, but again repeats its previous argument that radiated 
emission levels above the power lines are stronger than they are at 
near-ground levels and contends that BPL emission measurements should 
be made at the level of the power lines, not close to the ground as 
specified in the BPL Measurement Guidelines because such measurement 
would not capture the worst-case emissions. It also re-argues that NTIA 
recommended a 5 dB correction factor to address this deficiency but the 
Commission chose not to adopt it. The Commission disposed of the issue 
regarding receive antenna height and correction factor in both the BPL 
First Order and BPL Second Order. ARRL did not bring any new 
information on reconsideration here.
    19. Finally, ARRL contends that there would not be any negative 
effect on BPL systems if the Commission were to implement full-time 
notching of amateur radio allocations to notch depths of at least 25 dB 
and therefore argues that its request would not be burdensome to the 
BPL industry. The Commission does not believe that it should require 
all BPL systems to permanently notch specific frequencies at a certain 
notch depth just because the technology is capable of doing so. As 
stated in the BPL Second Order, to require that BPL systems permanently 
avoid all the amateur radio frequencies would unnecessarily restrict 
BPL operations and leave unused valuable Access BPL capacity in areas/
locations where no amateur operations are present that could receive 
interference. ARRL did not bring any new information on reconsideration 
here.
    20. In its opposition to the Petition, Current Group LLC (Current) 
contends that the ARRL Petition is largely a rehash of previous 
filings, and that the Commission should find that the Petition has 
failed to make a prima facie case for reconsideration and summarily 
deny it. Similarly, the Edison Electric Institute and the Utilities 
Telecom Council (EEI/UTC) argue that as a procedural matter, the ARRL's 
request for full-time notching of the entire amateur band has been 
rejected before and may not be raised again in reconsideration of the 
BPL Second Order. The HomePlug Powerline Alliance (HomePlug) also 
states that ARRL's arguments have already been fully considered by the 
Commission no less than three times in this proceeding and its Petition 
should be denied or dismissed pursuant to Sec.  1.106(p)(3) of the 
Commission rules. As discussed, the Commission largely agrees with 
these oppositions and denies the petition for reconsideration for the 
reasons stated.

Ordering Clauses

    21. Pursuant to authority contained in contained in sections 4(i), 
301, 302, 303(e), 303(f), 303(r), and 405 of the Communications Act of 
1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 154(i), 301, 302a, 303(e), 303(f), 303(r), 
405, and 1.429 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR Section 1.429, that 
the Petition for Reconsideration filed by ARRL is denied.
    22. The Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, 
Reference Information Center, shall send a copy of this Second 
Memorandum Opinion and Order, including the Final Regulatory 
Flexibility Certification, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the 
Small Business Administration.

Report to Congress

    23. The Commission will not send a copy of this Second Memorandum 
Opinion and Order pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, see 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A), because the Commission did not adopt any new rules 
here.

Federal Communications Commission.
Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2013-12746 Filed 5-28-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P