FCC Issues Citation and Order to Motel for Excessive Cable Signal Leakage

The FCC recently issued a Citation and Order to a motel in Miami, Florida for failing to notify the FCC prior to operating an MVPD system using a carrier in the aeronautical radio frequency band and for exceeding the cable signal leakage limits in that band. In the decision, the FCC warned the motel that it could be fined $112,500 if it fails to promptly remedy the situation.

In May 2013, agents from the Enforcement Bureau conducted an investigation and discovered that the motel was using a non-cable MVPD system operating in the aeronautical frequencies, but had not filed FCC Form 321 to notify the FCC before commencing operation on those frequencies. In addition, the agents performed field strength measurements and found that the MVPD system was emitting signals significantly above the established signal leakage limits. For the bands in which the MVPD was operating, the signal leakage limits are between 15-20 microvolts per meter; the agents measured emissions at two different locations, leading to readings of 513 and 1,659 microvolts per meter.

In the Citation and Order, the FCC directed the motel to come into immediate compliance with the signal leakage limits and to register with the FCC as an MVPD. In addition, the motel must submit to the FCC written descriptions of the actions taken or planned to be taken to correct the violations and prevent future violations. The FCC also warned the motel that future violations could lead to additional enforcement actions, including substantial fines, seizure of equipment, and criminal charges.

This case serves as a reminder to all non-cable MVPDs that they, like all cable television systems, must notify the FCC prior to using any aeronautical frequency bands. Aeronautical frequencies are those within the ranges of 108-137 MHz and 225-400 MHz. Notification must be provided electronically on FCC Form 321, using the Commission's COALs database system, which can be found at www.fcc.gov/coals.

According to the FCC, a "non-cable MVPD" is an entity (other than a cable company), "that engages in the business of making available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple channels of video programming." The FCC has indicated in the past that this can include universities, hotels, apartment complexes, prisons, office buildings, and other facilities with in-house systems providing multiple channels of video programming available to subscribers or customers.

With potential liability for as much as $112,500 in fines in this particular case, non-cable MVPDs should be taking a close look at their system operations to ensure they are operating on appropriate frequencies, monitoring their operations, and preventing excessive signal leakage. However, given that many of these systems are operated by entities without much experience in operating such systems, or with the FCC, it is a safe bet that we will be hearing more from the FCC regarding this aspect of its rules in future enforcement decisions.