FCC Proposes Fines for WISPs for RF Interference, Warns Others

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The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau proposed a total of $75,000 in fines Thursday against three Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) for allegedly interfering with Federal Aviation Administration weather systems in Puerto Rico. Boom Solutions, Integra Wireless, and WinPR each face a $25,000 penalty. The bureau also issued an enforcement advisory to all industry players in the space, warning them to abide by the rules.

The companies used Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices for point-to-point wireless broadband communication, according to the agency. Enforcement Bureau investigations revealed the devices were located in the line of site of the FAA’s terminal doppler weather radar station at San Juan International Airport.

The FCC said the companies apparently misconfigured the devices by turning off a required feature that would have prevented them from causing harmful interference. The agency considers interference to these weather radar stations, which are used to detect wind shear and other dangerous weather conditions, to be potentially life threatening.  

In the enforcement advisory, the bureau warns U-NII device operators, manufacturers, and marketers, the devices must be certified under Commission rules. The devices operate in the 5.25 GHz to 5.35 GHz and 5.47 GHz to 5.725 GHz bands. They risk interfering with radar systems if not properly configured to share the spectrum.

The FCC states: “For U-NII devices operating as a master device (i.e., controlling the configuration of other U-NII devices) and operating in the 5.25 GHz – 5.35 GHz and 5.47 GHz – 5.725 GHz bands, Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) radar detection must be enabled. DFS enables U-NII devices and government radar stations to share the band. An operator may not modify the radio frequency capabilities of a device to (i) defeat or disable Dynamic Frequency Selection, or (ii) enable the device to operate in a manner inconsistent with the radio frequency parameters included in its certification.”  

In all three cases, the agency alleged the violations were intentional, so the bureau increased each proposed fine by $5,000. The FCC instructed all three companies to certify compliance with its requirements “to preserve the integrity” of the FAA’s doppler weather radar at the airport. The statement must be submitted to the bureau within 30 days. The companies also have 30 days to either pay the fine, or seek to have it reduced or cancelled.  

Meanwhile, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association said the three companies are not members of the lobbying organization. “That said, this is still a serious matter with potentially severe public safety consequences,” said WISPA President/CEO Claude Aiken. 

“WISPA has for several years educated its members on compliance with Commission rules, particularly the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar interference rules. We strongly encourage our members to stay in full compliance,” Aiken added.

August 26, 2019   

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