BC DC

First Person FCC

8/16/2011 12:38:20 PM

I am used to meeting with FCC officials in my job, but this was an unexpected encounter.

I was working downstairs at my computer at home when one of my kids called out that someone from the FCC was at the door and could I come upstairs and talk with them.

For a moment, I wondered whether it could be some disgruntled staffer with documents that could bring down a top official or expose a decision struck in a back room somewhere. The closest I came to that scenario was an exchange of information at a gas station near my house one evening, but that was an innocuous favor rather than a Watergate moment.

I extricated myself from a Web filing and greeted a very pleasant women armed with a device that identifies spikes in interference to cell phone service. Turns out Verizon had complained that such interference was coming from my house.

“Did Verizon contact you?” she asked. I said no, and then remembered a Verizon business card that had been stuck inside the front storm door a couple of days before. I had pocketed it without reading the note penned on the margin because, frankly, I have been pursued by Verizon FiOS salespeople within an inch of my patience. I fished it out of my pocket, and sure enough, it said something about interference and could I contact someone immediately. I hadn’t, which brought me to my current visitor.

She asked if I had a security camera, which can cause such interference spikes. I said I didn’t, at least that I knew of. We checked the wireless router, which was fine, then moved toward the front window and the spike spiked even more. Turns out it was my UHF/VHF/FM amplified antenna I had bought recently. I unplugged it, and the spike disappeared.

I have to say that the FCC investigator was extremely professional and pleasant. She showed me her credentials immediately, made no comment about the state of my housekeeping, and even had a laugh with me as we initially thought the culprit was a set of electronic Christmas bells that I was about ready to volunteer for lab testing since she said that was a first. Turns out I was unplugging the wrong cord the whole time. That is why I cover the FCC and don’t work for them.

The next day I happened across a Verizon repairman and mentioned that the interference was coming from a TV/radio indoor antenna.

“That must be why they are trying to get the spectrum from broadcasters to give it to wireless,” he said. Maybe indeed.

March