Noise floor report does not inspire confidence

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By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU

Last June, the FCC’s Technical Advisory Committee asked licensed and unlicensed users of the electromagnetic spectrum to answer some questions about the noise they were experiencing and whether or not it was affecting their services. Specifically, they asked:

 * Is there a noise floor problem?

 * Where does the problem exist? Spectrally? Spatially? Temporally?

 * Is there quantitative evidence of the overall increase in the total integrated noise floor across various segments of the radio frequency spectrum?

 * How should a noise study be performed?

Well, the results are in, and Radio World recently published a summary of the responses that the FCC received (http://www.radioworld.com/business-and-law/0009/noise-floor-where-do-we-go-from-here/338242). The FCC received 93 replies from 73 (great number, eh?) different people or organizations, including:

 * 23 companies/industry organizations

 * 39 RF professionals (broadcast and wireless)

 * 31 licensed radio amateurs

 * 9 responders did not reply to the questions asked

Respondents included the ARRL, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, ATT, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. I found especially interesting comments from the Society of Broadcast Engineers. They include:

 * Increased cooperation is needed between manufacturers of Part 15 devices and users of radio spectrum to identify noise sources and take appropriate remedial action.

 * Radiated emission limits below 30 MHz in the FCC Part 15 rules for unintentional emitters should be enacted. There are presently no radiated emission limits below 30 MHz for most unintentional emitters.

 * Reduced Part 15 limits for LED lights should be enacted to be harmonized with the Part 18 lower limits for fluorescent bulbs.

 * Better labeling on packaging for Part 18 fluorescent bulbs and ballasts to better inform consumers of potential interference to radio, TV and cellphone reception in the residential environment.

 * Specific radiated and/or conducted emission limits for incidental emitters, such as motors or power lines, should be enacted.

 * Conducted emission limits on pulse-width motor controllers used in appliances should be enacted.

 * Substantially increase the visibility of enforcement in power line interference cases.

Other organizations made similar comments.

While the report is encouraging, it won’t mean a thing if no action is taken on these issues. Given that the FCC is cutting back on its field offices, and our president-elect has said that he plans to reduce the number of governmental regulations, I’m not optimistic that we’ll see the noise situation get better before it gets worse. What do you all think?

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