I received more e-mails than usual this week, as amateur radio operators responded to last week's column in which I reported on their perspective concerning broadband-over-power line technologies. Generally, they were pleased that I made the effort to share the ham community's concerns regarding the nascent technology. (Thanks to everyone who wrote -- we appreciate the effort and are interested in your perspective.)

Last week, the FCC cleared the way for utilities to provide high-speed Internet service over the same lines that carry electricity into homes and businesses nationwide. The FCC believes BPL is the answer to bringing broadband services to rural and other underserved areas.

However, despite FCC claims to the contrary, the hams fear that radiation leakage from BPL will interfere with their operations. And despite the fact the FCC has placed certain burdens on the utilities in terms of avoiding and mitigating interference, the hams believe the utilities in practice will be slow to respond to complaints.

I also reported that the American Amateur Radio League is considering a grassroots campaign -- among other potential tactics, including perhaps litigation -- to pressure Congress to draft legislation that would better protect amateur radio operators. Though acknowledging the 700,000 hams scattered across the continent would speak with a loud voice, I predicted their pleas ultimately would fall on deaf ears. BPL theoretically will spark investment in the still-unhealthy telecom sector and potentially create jobs, something no lawmaker interested in staying in office wants to block.

In addition to showing their appreciation, the hams who wrote this week added their own thoughts. I've decided to share some of the more thoughtful responses, which have been edited for length:

"I agree with your final statement about ... the driving force being the dollar. {However]I do believe that if 350,000 of the 700,000 individuals e-mailed their Congressman on specific legislation, then perhaps in an election year there might be more results than expected."

"Looking at the limitations other countries have put on BPL shows at least a 20 dB gulf between their definition of harmful interference and the FCC's."

"The FCC refuses to fix the Nextel interference problem. They want the whole nation to dump their analog TV sets. Then they want to kill our nation's finest amateur radio operators. Let's keep the initials. How about the Federal Calamitous Commission?"

"The sharp rise/fall times of the signal(s) will produce a wall of noise across the entire spectrum. Even if BPL was limited to sinusoidal transfer components, specific frequencies, their harmonics and other unknown products will yet result. This action by the FCC is ill advised from a multitude of perspectives. The security of our country must be top on the list. Well known in our history is the fact that when public safety and government communication systems become compromised, amateur radio operators immediately step in and provide adjunct communications to fire, police, Red Cross, and other emergency services when these are brought down or are otherwise compromised."

"I'm glad you identified that the amateur radio community does more then chit-chat with others or interfere with TVs. I used to link telephone conversations (phone patch) between military personnel overseas and their families in the states. This was a free service our club performed. Hams perform many services and are at times linked with public-safety organizations as an extra arm of their communications services."

"What amazes me is the lackadaisical attitude of the many [in public safety] still on low band VHF. Where are these people who -- far more then the amateur radio operator -- have a life-and-death vested interest in their radios being able to receive and transmit?"

"In the past few months, I've been seeing many failures that appear more and more to be linked to high RF (EMI) in the environment. Many times, I've found the only reason for a bad fire-alarm sensor was close proximity to a new electrical ballast, and it appears to be [caused] by RF emitting from the switching circuit. So if all of this new technology in burglar and fire alarm systems is already being affected by issues related to RF, what is going to happen when BPL pumps even more RF/data streams into the power line that these devices use?"

"The other side of the situation is this: what happens when a radio amateur transmits with the typical 100-watt ssb or cw signal? Answer: BPL is stopped cold for blocks, and there is nothing the utility can do about it. So it is a two-way situation, and I do not think BPL will be able to overcome it with HF modems. And using microwave bands and G-line techniques will run into problems around FAA, NEXRAD and military radar sites. Short of bundling a fiber-optic line into the middle of the power line, which makes more sense, using the power line system itself to propagate broadband signals simply is technology that will not work, no matter how hard the FCC tries to make it happen."

E-mail me at gbischoff@primediabusiness.com

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