No One Cares Unless It’s Them, April 2, 2008
I had to stop and think what I could call this little story and finally said I would call it like it is. At the strong urging of several of my amateur friends I now tell this story. Hopefully it might help to keep too many other amateurs from losing their licensed rights to operate in the ham bands they desire to use to big money corporations and cure a lack of support from people and laws that are supposed to protect the amateur’s licensed privileges.
This story is about the reasons why I am giving up on ham radio. It is certainly not because I want to but because a large CATV company has forced me to shut down my station... not because I’m causing interference, but because of the horrendous level of interference I now receive from CATV on the allocated amateur frequencies I choose, enjoy and prefer to operate on. I am thoroughly disgusted and very bitter with the outcome of my efforts to seek relief from the interference.
Up until or about January 18, 2007, I had absolutely no interference what-so-ever, I must repeat, I had no interference what-so-ever from the CATV company’s system here in Indian River County, Florida. I went to participate in the ARRL VHF contest in mid-January of 2007 and found that the frequencies I wanted to use were buried in a continuous 20dB over S9 signal level of some kind.
I did a lot of searching with my equipment and found that the primary source of interference was being transmitted on 145.250 MHz which happens to be CATV channel 18. This channel, as with all cable channels, I understand, have a bandwidth of 6MHz. Need I say more what that does to weak signal Dxing. Tuning through the 2 meter band area I normally operate indicated harmonics of various signal strengths and band widths originating from the original frequency. Signal strengths on the primary CATV channel 18 (145.250 MHz) at my location are at full S-meter scale most of the time with harmonics above and below the primary frequency.
I further investigated other CATV channel frequencies that might be in or near the other two primary bands that I utilize for weak signal and satellite Dxing. I was alarmed when I found the same interference on the UHF ham bands as well. My guess at the time was it was from CATV channel 59 (433.250MHz), channel 60 (439.250 MHz) and channel 61 (445.250 MHz) and others. The 6 meter band had some lower level signals that most likely were harmonics from CATV channels above and below the 6 meter band. The harmonics were there most likely from what I truly believe were “new” transmission strength levels needed for growth that suddenly appeared mid-January of 2007 at my location area. The poor condition of the CATV cable distribution system in my opinion is now leaking it’s signal.
Before I go on with this story, let me state that any individual group, ARRL officials, FCC officials or any CATV company official that does not believe what I have stated so far, may visit the area with their own detection equipment and see and hear for themselves what has forced me to lose my FCC licensed rights to operate in the allocated two meter amateur and 70 cm bands. You will not need any fancy detection equipment or antenna systems.
To continue this story which I will make every attempt to minimize it’s length, I took extensive measures to record tons of data of the actual interference signals. These were audible recordings in different modes (fm, usb, cw, etc.) and visual recordings. This documentation was on going and involved all the frequencies and more that I have not mentioned. Samples are available to those requesting by email as I have also kept and maintained every written word and email by those involved in this fiasco.
I decided that I would personally take samples of this documentation to the office of the local CATV “Network Operations Supervisor” and discuss “their problem” with him. His eyes widened as he viewed and listened to the evidence. I explained that it was my desire to allow him reasonable time to do whatever is required to mitigate “their problem” promptly. I also mentioned that I was also heavily involved in ARES emergency communications in our county and that I was out of service. I also notified the CATV company corporate office as well.
I also was very clear in stating that I never had interference from CATV until mid-January of 2007. I also made it quite clear that it was my desire to cooperate and not notify the FCC. He stated that he did not want the FCC involved either. I offered all my assistance required to help out and left.
The results were CATV Engineers and the CATV Supervisor in my home with their test equipment to see for themselves several times over. I kid you not when I say their comment to each other the first visit was “we’ve got a problem”.
In short, a show was put on for me. I was told that this did not occur suddenly as I originally stated but had been occurring slowly over the years because of bad CATV cable connections. From absolutely no interference to the signal strength at my location slowly happening just did not happen slowly! One day clear frequencies and the next overwhelming interference!! The show goes on...
After weeks of trucks and CATV technicians performing all kinds of tests and my actual going out and locating cable system leaks for them and building and supplying a yagi antenna, I gave up and filed an official, extremely well-documented complaint with the FCC. I explained that I had made strong personal effort to cooperate and assist the CATV company. Although some lessening of the interference level did occur for a short while, sadly enough it soon returned at full strength.
Shortly after filing my official complaint, I had an official FCC Enforcement Bureau investigation team from the FCC field office in Tampa, Florida in my home in mid-March of 2007 with their sophisticated test equipment and they saw for themselves what I have been talking about. I won’t go into a lot of detail but they made several visits, set up temporary towers and antennas to locate the source in addition to extensive drive testing in the area.
The end result is anybody’s guess. They most likely will say that they could not locate or detect any problem interference for what I perceive to be obvious reasons and declare it legal. Yet they saw the problem on their test equipment in my home and I witnessed it. By the way, my home and any equipment, systems or whatever was cleared as an emission source.
No further action that I am aware of was taken by the FCC or the CATV company. I never received any kind of an FCC report. It was however suggested by an FCC official that I go to another amateur band. Additionally, I also notified all the top officials of the ARRL repeatedly and also explained the event at our local amateur club in the presence of our section leader and displayed samples of visual and audible proof. As far as the CATV company was concerned their system was not causing my interference and their investigation was completed.
I have had no response to my continuing to email current proof of the ongoing interference documentation to the FCC, all the ARRL officials and a field technician for the CATV company who in himself is also a local radio amateur. I generally sent current documentation every couple of weeks. Since my last emails of continued interference documentation to enforcement and ARRL officials were returned to me as un-delivered, indicated a very important message to me personally indeed. Now totally disgusted, very bitter and I am giving up my futile attempts.
A very sad part of this event is that there were several other amateurs experiencing the same problems, one of which also filed an official complaint with the FCC. To the best of my knowledge, he never was contacted about his complaint by the FCC.
My attempts to get all those other affected amateurs together for mutual support and go to the FCC, the ARRL officials and the CATV company failed and I was left alone to battle this problem. Their feeling was that no one will care to help, you can’t fight city hall, you can’t win against big business and all the other excuses of futility... most sad of all as it may be, some just didn’t care! What they are doing about the interference problems now I have no idea. At least I had the intestinal fortitude to try even if it was alone. Mutual support from the local amateur community turned out to be a total failure.
Today, for the 15th month in a row, I am still off the air as the interference is still there stronger than ever. Any amateur can drive around anywhere in Indian River County, Florida, with a two meter rig tuned to 145.250 MHz and detect the interference for themselves. Why I ask? Because nobody cares.
To put an end to this story, I am in the process of selling my amateur equipment. I have resigned from ARES and from being the technical officer and participating in emergency functions as I have done over the years. I hate to think of how many hours I have put in not only preparing for hurricane emergencies but providing emergency communications for our local hospital many times over. I have also contributed many personal hours to improving emergency amateur communications systems in our county for our citizens.
As for the past 15 months, I have had my ability to operate on frequencies that I have FCC licensed rights to do so taken away from me by one of the largest CATV companies and as the story title says “No One Cares Unless It’s Them”. I ask myself why, why must this happen? Because no one cares.
I just don’t know what else to say other than to remind all amateurs that if you stand alone you will lose but if you stand together you will at least have a chance to win. My situation should be a fair example of what happens to the individual if he seeks support from those that are supposed to protect his FCC licensed rights. Simply put, “No One Cares Unless It’s Them”.
73 to all.
John E. Conefrey W4IVW Vero Beach, Florida