FCC cuts Falcon Radio’s fine from $40,000 to $5,000
Falcon Radio, Englewood, CO, was sent some good news Aug. 1 when the FCC reduced from $40,000 to $5,000 the amount the federal agency ordered Falcon to pay in connection with notices of forfeiture for unlicensed operation of 900MHz trunked radio facilities.
Whether the action taken by the FCC makes any difference is questionable because Falcon may no longer be in business. A search of Internet and telephone directories failed to reveal a listing for Falcon. A Denver-area manufacturers representative said that the company had gone out of business.
The FCC previously concluded that Falcon had operated a five-channel trunked 900MHz business radio system on Thorodin Mountain near Wondervu, CO, and a similar system on Squaw Mountain near Idaho Springs, CO, without valid authorization. FCC agents inspected the Squaw system on Sept. 23, 1998, and the Thorodin system five days later.
The FCC said that Jack Spillman, whom the agency said was Falcon’s service manager at the time, told the agents that the Squaw system was licensed for 10 channels. The agency said that Spillman explained that the Thorodin system was covered by a Special Temporary Authority. The STA allowed five of the 10 Squaw system channels to be used at Thorodin. The FCC claimed that the STA had expired on June 4, 1997. Falcon claimed that the STA had been extended. The FCC had no record of an application for extension being filed; thus, the FCC found that the Thorodin system was unlicensed.
At the time of the 1998 FCC investigations in the Denver area, some trunked commercial system operators had complained that one or more trunked business system operators were finding ways to sell airtime in breach of the FCC rules. Business operators may use their systems for internal communications, and they may offer service to eligible users, but not to members of the public. That’s commercial service, and it requires a different FCC license.
Commercial operators who had paid large sums to buy spectrum at auction were particularly incensed because the objectionable business system operators paid only a nominal license fee. With less investment to pay off, not only were some of the business system operators selling airtime in violation of FCC rules—according to the complaining commercial operators—they were selling at a rate lower than what commercial operators could afford.
The FCC never alleged that Falcon had sold airtime to the public on its business radio system, but it seems apparent that Falcon’s system was inspected as part of the agency’s investigation of what it called “non-compliant operation and use of the 800MHz and 900MHz frequency bands in the Denver area.”
The FCC initially claimed that Falcon’s license for the Squaw facility had been canceled when the company failed to file notice of its construction and failed to reply to three reminders. But the FCC conceded that Falcon’s STA request for the Thorodin facility indicated construction of the Squaw facility more than a year before the license for that facility was canceled. On that basis, the FCC rescinded its $20,000 forfeiture order connected with the Squaw facility.
The FCC reduced the $20,000 forfeiture order for the Thorodin facility to $5,000, noting that “the circumstances presented here justify a substantial reduction of the forfeitures assessed or proposed in this proceeding.” The FCC added: “Finally, we caution Falcon to exercise greater diligence in submitting all appropriate filings to the commission on a timely basis.”
Falcon was represented by the law firm of Schwaninger & Associates. Delaney M. DiStefano, an attorney with the firm, said that she did not know why Falcon had been caught up in the FCC’s investigation of Denver-area 800MHz and 900MHz trunked radio systems, including whether it was related to a possible investigation of illegal airtime sales any system operator.