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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Robert Weller to Rejoin FCC -
Replacing Dr. Robert Cleveland
in Charge of RF Safety Program

Reliable sources report that Robert Weller will return to FCC shortly to head OET's RF Safety Program. This is a Commission-wide program dealing with the safety of all FCC-regulated transmitters to humans in their vicinity.

Dr. Cleveland joined FCC in the early 1980s and had a pioneering role in developing the safety regulations we have today, steering a careful path between ambivalent industry interests in the matter and the legal and public interest concerns of the FCC. He was the main author of several FCC proposals and decisions in this area as well as key FCC publications such as:
OET Bulletin No. 56: Questions and Answers About Biological Effects Potential Hazards of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields (Fourth Edition, August 1999)
OET Bulletin No. 65: Evaluating Compliance With FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields

He retired in April and moved to the West Coast and is now involved with a new firm, RF Check, Inc. in the RF safety area. He was one of the finest public servants I ever worked with and the public owes him a debt for his ethical representation of health concerns in the face of what was often massive resistance from industry.

Bob Weller worked at FCC from 1984 to 1993 in a number of positions in the former Field Operations Bureau, now Enforcement Bureau. I worked closely with him on the "Playboy Jamming Case", US vs. Haney, a felony case involving the intentional jamming of a communications satellite. This case was the first prosecution under 18 USC 1367 and raised numerous novel legal and technical issues in showing that Mr. Haney, an employee of the Christian Broadcasting Network, had used its equipment to disrupt programming that he disliked. Bob contributed greatly to the team that ultimately was successful in a jury verdict in this case. He finished his first FCC service as head of the FCC's Denver office. Since 1993 he has been an Associate in the California engineering firm of Hammett & Edison, Inc.

Since Dr. Cleveland retired, Ed Mantiply who worked with him at FCC has been ably filling in. Ed previously worked on RF safety issues at EPA before joining FCC a few years ago.

(An old picture showing Ed Mantiply, left, and Robert Cleveland, right, doing RF safety measurements in the field.)

Microwave News has reported that the key RF safety issue facing FCC is

(w)hether to replace the FCC's current cell phone safety standard with the much looser limit adopted by the IEEE in 2005 (see our January 14, 2005 post). Motorola and Nokia have been plotting this change for a long time. Motorola's C.K. Chou devoted years to co-chairing the committee that developed the IEEE standard. Some observers are surprised that industry hasn't yet formally petitioned the FCC to make the switch. Maybe it's waiting for the Bushies to appoint a sympathetic someone above Mantiply to push the IEEE standard through. The industry game plan will become clearer in due course.
In the past, FCC has consulted with health-related agencies such as EPA, NIOSH and OSHA on RF safety levels for FCC regulations and implemented the consensus level suggested by the health-related agencies. (Amusingly, the Pentagon sometimes found that the levels picked were embarrassing, even though they didn't apply to Federal Government use regulated by NTIA, and pressured to be included as a "health-related agency" in the consultations and consensus building. So far, FCC has resisted such pressure.)
  • Note: Since I wrote this post some of the original sources have commented that I missed a subtlety: the RF safety program is not a formal organizational entity at FCC. Dr. Cleveland was not formally a supervisor, but rather the de facto leader under the supervision of the branch chief of OET's Technical Analysis Branch, presently Ron Chase. Bob Weller is filling Dr. Cleveland's position/slot in the OET staffing plan but the details of what role he will play, vis-a-vis others, will play out with time. - MJM 10/31/07

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