Harmful Interference and Lack of Responsiveness Lead to $18,000 Fine for CB Radio Operator

The owner of a Citizens Band (“CB”) station was recently issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) for $18,000 as a result of interference caused to his neighbors’ electronic devices. The owner was fined for failing to make his CB station available for inspection by the FCC and for failing to comply with the restricted hours imposed on the operation of his CB station following official notification from the FCC.

In response to a complaint that the CB station was causing interference with a neighbor’s telephone and TV reception, the FCC attempted to conduct an investigation of the station in January 2012. At that time, no one answered the door. In March 2012, the FCC issued a Warning Letter to the owner and directed the owner to contact the FCC to schedule an inspection. The letter also warned the owner that if interference continued, the FCC would impose restricted operating hours on the station. The owner never responded to the Warning Letter.

In May 2012, the FCC again sent a letter to the owner, this time directing him and anyone else at his residence not to operate the CB station from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. until the owner contacted the FCC to schedule an inspection. The owner again failed to contact the FCC. The FCC continued to receive complaints of interference in the neighborhood and sent yet another Warning Letter to the station’s owner in June 2012, reminding him of the restricted operating hours put into place and directing him to schedule an inspection.

In October 2012, agents from the FCC again attempted to conduct an investigation of the station. They monitored multiple radio transmissions in the Citizens Band and used direction finding techniques to confirm that the transmissions were emanating from the owner’s residence. When the agents knocked on the door, no one answered, but the transmissions immediately ceased, indicating that the owner turned off the CB station while the FCC agents were at his doorstep.

As of the date of the NAL, the FCC had received no responses from the owner of the CB station.

Sections 95.423(a) and (b) of the FCC’s Rules provide that if the FCC informs a CB operator that a station is causing interference, the CB operator must comply with all instructions issued in an official FCC notice and must comply with any restricted hours of operation issued in such notice. In addition, Section 303 of the Communications Act and Section 95.426(a) of the FCC’s Rules require that CB station owners make their stations and records available for inspection by the FCC.

The base fine for failing to allow inspection of radio equipment is $7,000, and the FCC found that an additional $7,000 upward adjustment of this fine was warranted because the owner had continually ignored the FCC letters and notices directing him to schedule an inspection. Though there is no base fine designated for failing to comply with FCC notices imposing operational restrictions on CB stations, the FCC found that the nature of this violation was similar to that of failing to respond to an official FCC communication, for which there is a base fine of $4,000, which the FCC included in the forfeiture amount. In addition to the $18,000 fine, the FCC is requiring the owner to submit a sworn written statement within 30 days of the NAL confirming compliance with the restricted hours of operation and specifying a date and time when the FCC can inspect the CB station.