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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, May 18, 2009

New Docs Show
FCC Glossed Over BPL Flaws

Surprising, well, nobody

by Karl Bode

(Reprinted with permission from dslreports.com)

The relationship between the FCC and ham operators has always been a contentious one, due to BPL's interference potential and the FCC's rather, uh, over-enthusiastic promotion of the flawed technology. As part of an effort to pretend their pro-incumbent policies resulted in something more than an uncompetitive duopoly, the agency used to call BPL the "great broadband hope." Hams have always alleged that the agency ignored interference data for the benefit of the BPL industry.

Interestingly, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has obtained and published on its website FCC studies it had obtained from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it filed at the end of March. In October of 2007 the ARRL filed suit against the FCC, alleging that the FCC had held studies on BPL that may not have supported its own position on BPL until it was too late to comment on them. The FCC dismissed these documents as "internal communications" that did not factor in on its decision to adopt the BPL rules.

The FCC fought releasing the documents for years, until new FOIA rules implemented by the Obama administration finally resulted in the documents being released earlier this week. The studies show, among other things, that the FCC redacted, manipulated and ignored data in order to support their own position that power lines were perfectly suited to broadband, while ignoring advise from numerous providers and vendors in the sector.

The FCC chose to ignore the findings from a 2003 study that plainly stated that BPL was not a point source.
View PDF of original and redacted version

That's in line with previous criticisms levied at the the way former FCC boss Kevin Martin ran the agency. In Martin's FCC, objective science and real data were an afterthought to political agendas or fealty to industry lobbyists. Even employees within the FCC complained that the agency had become a political animal that frequently ignored or violated the commission's own guidelines at the whims of Chairman Martin.

Unfortunately for Martin and the FCC, all of their BPL cheerleading efforts came to naught. With the recent closure of several of the technology's highest-profile trials, BPL exists as little more than a fringe player being used in very select rural locations to provide connectivity. Most of the BPL vendors the FCC was presumably working for have since moved on to promote smart electrical grid functionality.

Another example of FCC "redaction"
View PDF of original and redacted version

ars technica has a more detailed and more scathing discussion of what was revealed with the ARRL FOIA request entitled "Did the FCC cook the books on broadband over power lines?" The blog part of the article has the following input from "tetrault":
"So, when will the Obama administration announce that the Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation of the FCC to determine who altered the data, why they altered the data, and whether there was outside influence (bribery)? Is your guess "never"? The Obama administration prefers big businesses that it can control (and get bribes from) to little guys such as ham radio operators. Therefore, no investigation will occur."
Actually an interesting idea, although readers may recall I have little faith in the present FCC IG.

Meanwhile our congratulations to Steve Martin of the FCC Lab (shown in photo at left from an IEEE meeting)who was the original author of the redacted document. He is the only one in this mess who emerged as a hero. (I suspect some of Steve's supervisor's may have supported him, but we will probably never find out.)

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