On October 24, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its Second Report and Order in the Access Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) docket, which fundamentally reaffirms its findings on BPL systems but makes minor rule modifications. The amended BPL rules will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The Second Report and Order is available here.

Background

BPL systems are used to deliver high-speed Internet access and other broadband services over medium-voltage power lines. BPL systems are also used to monitor and manage electricity usage and distribution through remote devices commonly known as “Smart Grid” devices. The FCC adopted its original BPL rules in 2004 and affirmed them on reconsideration in 2006.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) challenged the FCC’s BPL rules in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on a number of grounds, including whether the FCC adequately addressed interference issues and the FCC’s failure to disclose relevant technical studies in unredacted form. In 2008, the court granted the appeal in part and remanded the rules to the FCC for further consideration. The Second Report and Order was issued in response to the remand.

Key Findings and Modifications

The Second Report and Order reaffirmed the FCC’s prior rules for BPL systems with minor modifications. The key modifications are:

  • Spectrum Notching – The FCC will continue to require that BPL systems be capable of spectrum notching in order to mitigate interference with licensed radio systems. The Second Report and Order increases the spectrum notching capability requirement by 5 dB, to 25 dB.
  • 18-Month Grace Period – The FCC is allowing an 18-month period before the more conservative 25-dB notching requirement becomes effective.
  • Measurement Distance Extrapolation Factor – The order retains the original guidelines for measuring BPL emissions. These guidelines include a 40dB/decade extrapolation factor for frequencies below 30 MHz, and an alternative site-specific approach. For the site-specific approach, the order requires four measurement points instead of the original requirement of only two measurement points.

The Second Report and Order retains a few existing findings, including:

  • Access BPL Database – The order retains the requirement that BPL Systems operators must supply data, including accurate contact information, to an industry-recognized database currently maintained by the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC).
  • Access BPL Technology Benefits – The FCC reaffirmed its finding that BPL offers significant benefits, including expedited availability of broadband service to rural and underserved areas and fostering competition in broadband services.