FCC Enforcement Monitor ~ November 2017
Pillsbury’s communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month’s issue includes:
- FCC Fires Broadside at Pirate Stronghold: Nearly Half of November Pirate Radio Notices Go to NY/NJ/CT Area
- Sorry About That: Wireless Broadband Manufacturer Pays $95,000 to End Investigation of Failure to Prevent Harmful Manipulation of Its Products
- Not Too Bright: FCC Proposes $25,000 Fine for Marketing Unlabeled Fluorescent Lights
No Parlay for Pirates: FCC Turns Up the Heat on Dozens of Alleged Pirate Radio Operators
In its most recent salvo against pirate radio operators, FCC field agents issued dozens of Notices of Violation (“NOV”) or Notices of Unauthorized Operation (“NOUO”) against alleged operators of unlicensed radio stations, particularly in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Under Section 301 of the Communications Act, transmission of radio signals without FCC authorization is prohibited. Unlicensed radio operators risk seizure of their equipment, heavy fines, and criminal sanctions.
On just two consecutive days in October, agents from the New York field office investigated no fewer than eight pirate radio operations in New York and New Jersey, and the past month saw half a dozen NOUOs issued for Connecticut pirate radio operations.
In a similar show of force to the south, the FCC warned a dozen Florida residents of potential violations. The FCC also handed out a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) to an alleged California pirate, proposing a $15,000 fine.
For many years, broadcasters complained bitterly about both the interference from multiplying pirate stations and the FCC’s glacial response to these illegal operations. Too often, the FCC’s response was to shrug its bureaucratic shoulders and note that it had limited resources. Broadcasters thus became even more disheartened when the FCC greatly reduced its field offices and staffing in 2016, making it harder for FCC personnel to quickly reach and investigate pirate operations, even if given authority to do so.
Fortunately, Commissioner O’Rielly took up the cause early in his tenure at the FCC, and under Chairman Pai, the FCC has made prosecution of unauthorized radio operations a priority. While broadcasters are certainly appreciative of the change, the sudden uptick in enforcement actions by a reduced number of field offices and agents has made clear that it was never a matter of resources, but of regulatory will. If you want to hunt pirates, you have to leave port.
Consent Decree Ends FCC Investigation Into Company’s Modifiable Wireless Broadband Devices
The FCC entered into a Consent Decree with a wireless device manufacturer after investigating whether the company violated various rules pertaining to the authorization and marketing of devices that emit radio frequency (“RF”) radiation.
In particular, the FCC looked into the manufacturer’s U-NII (Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure) devices. These devices are commonly used for Wi-Fi and other broadband access technology. However, U-NII devices that operate in the 5 GHz radio band risk interfering with certain weather radar systems. As a result, the FCC regulates how manufacturers make these devices available to the public. Continue reading →