Pursue The Real Culprit

You must wonder what thought processes folks go through to create such ridiculous circumstances. Take Barnstable High School in Barnstable, Massachusetts for example.  What were they thinking? The FCC recently notified them of their unlicensed use of private land mobile channels and their unauthorized operation of both Family Radio and General Mobile Radio Service channels within their communication system. A High School is not eligible to hold a General Mobile Radio Service license, and their equipment is not certified to use Family Radio Service channels. What if, heaven forbid, they needed to use these radios in an emergency? They might find themselves talking to someone on a camping trip or at the mall since that’s who is supposed to be using Family Radio channels.  

Barnstable may get their hand slapped by the Enforcement Bureau, but likely will receive no fine because, well, they are a public school and public schools don’t normally have money lying around dedicated to paying fines for self-inflicted federal rule infractions. The probable response that “We’re sorry, we will immediately secure a proper license and remove the channels for which we are not eligible from our system” was probably enough for the Enforcement Bureau to settle and walk away.

But the Bureau shouldn’t walk away just yet as the real culprit is the service shop or the individual that programmed the radios in the first place and surely knew or should have known that their operation would be illegal. I doubt the technician advised the school administrators that he/she was jeopardizing the school’s safety needs by recklessly programming channels not intended for educational institutions. I can hear the conversation now: “Fuhgeddaboudit, you don’t need a license, and no one is using these other secret channels I’ve programmed into your system. You’re good to go!”  It is virtually guaranteed that the school administrators knew little about General Mobile, Family Radio and FCC licensing requirements, and they wouldn’t know what to ask. That the radios worked when they hit the transmit key was enough.

EWA informed the Bureau that it represents a significant number of radio dealers that take seriously FCC Rule Section 90.427(b), which, as you know, states that “… no person shall program into a transmitter frequencies for which the licensee using the transmitter is not authorized.”  We told them that it is a source of frustration and, frankly, economic impact when legitimate service shops must compete for business against those that seemingly pay no attention to that obligation.  

For that reason, EWA asked the FCC to request the School to identify the entity that programmed the non-compliant channels, and to take whatever enforcement action against that party the FCC considered appropriate. The programming of non-compliant channels in Land Mobile Radio Service systems, regrettably, is not unique to Barnstable, Massachusetts. Setting an example by taking some, even limited, action against the service shop would go a long way.