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Lay off AM radio or the Part 15 spider gets it.

Look out FCC Part 15 devices: AM radio is gonna getcha!

FCC LogoI am continuing to follow the Federal Communications Commission’s proceeding on saving AM radio. A recent comment submission comes from iHeartCommunications (formerly Clear Channel) Executive Vice President Jeff Littlejohn. Among his observations at an ex parte meeting with the FCC:

Mr. Littlejohn noted that many commenters in the AM Revitalization proceeding have called for increased enforcement of existing Commission Part 15 rules to address interference to AM signals from non-broadcast sources. iHeart supports those views, and in particular, would find valuable Commission involvement and mediation when AM stations bring to the Commission’s attention interference complaints from sources such as power utilities, which often require education to resolve.

Part 15 transmitters are called this because they are taxonomized within Part 15 of the FCC’s rules. They deploy or are activated by very little radio frequency power, in many instances jolts smaller than a milliwatt. Because of their scale, their operators don’t have to request a frequency license from the Commission to use them (although they may need authorization pending proof that their device radiates very little wattage).

All sorts of electronic gadgets fall under the rubric of Part 15, including refrigerators, juice extractors, paper shredders, coffee makers, deep fat fryers, and other fun machines. There are even some Part 15 community radio stations, such as KCHUNG of Los Angeles.

Speaking personally, I have a Part 15 voice activated Halloween Spider. When I bought it, the packaging explained that the Spider assiduously obeys the agency’s Part 15 rules. As the YouTube video below shows, all I have to do is shout “Trick or Treat!” and it creepily crawls along my refrigerator. If this activity interferes with any local AM stations, on behalf of the Spider, I apologize.

I do have one question about iHeart’s filing. I know that some Part 15 devices are powered by power lines (although my Spider is battery operated). But do power “utilities” actually come under the Part 15 rubric? I am no authority on this, but the National Alliance of AM Broadcasters’ submission to the FCC seems to offer more nuance here. ”RF [radio frequency] Noise levels from Power Lines, Part 15 and Part 18 devices [scientific/medical] are the greatest problem for AM Broadcasters,” NAAMB writes. This would seem to distinguish between Part 15 gizmos and power providers. The FCC’s explainer on Part 15 gadgets mentions utilities not once. I appeal to the Radio Survivor community for guidance on this question.

There does seem to be a consensus among most AM station owning filers, however, that Part 15 devices are a problem. What exactly the FCC should do about them is less clear.

I usually do InternetDJ on Mondays; will resume the schedule next week.

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3 Responses to Look out FCC Part 15 devices: AM radio is gonna getcha!

  1. November 6, 2014 at 7:14 am #

    The FCC has a bigger mess on their hands if they consider the wide proliferation of lines-powered devices that exceed Part 15 regulations. Compact fluorescents and LED replacement lamps are among the greatest problem along with other equipment producing radio frequency interference on the power lines.

    While the increased environmental noise has presented an obstacle to full power stations operating on the AM band a disproportionate amount of interference has been levied against those who attempt to broadcast on the AM dial under the Part 15 regulations that their devices fall under. A typical AM broadcaster has the luxury of broadcasting with hundreds or thousands of watts, a Part 15 compliant AM broadcaster has an effective radiated power of less than 100 milliwatts, or one-tenth of one watt.

  2. kc8gpd November 6, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    actually the ERP for a compliant part 15 am operating under 15.219 is at maximum with a well engineered system 1mw. on FM it’s F/S limited to 250uV/m @ 3m which in my experimentation get a signal with static mixed in but still listenable to a typical home stereo with a dipole to a range of about 600ft. the same signal to a decent car stereo is about 1000ft at most depending on the day and time of year. part 15 am can at most go about 1.5-2 miles to a decent car stereo. we need to address the noise makers such as IBOC (HD-AM which does not work very well to begin with), CFL bulbs, unfiltered switching power supplies and BPL which seem to be the worst offenders. true part 15 operators attempt to operate within the bounds of part 15 and for obvious reasons such as limited range to begin with don’t generally step on other full power stations frequencies. i would also like to mention neutral loaded carrier current operating under 15.221 which when used with an isolated ground and in conjunction with a part 15.219 system can cover an entire small neighborhood or school campus. i have a friend in casper, wy who runs such a system on 1670 in am stereo and covers 4 miles legally and has been visited several times by a now retired fcc agent and is chief engineer for a major broadcast chain.

  3. kc8gpd November 6, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    i have personally invested $16,000+ dollars into my part 15 am station and i even have an EAS system and am NRSC compliant for AM and FM. most of us spend $400-$1000 just on a compiant certified transmitter before we even get into the professional processing.

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