Ofcom forced to publish tests on dodgy radio kit
FOI request prompts action
Ofcom has been forced to disclose its own tests showing that powerline networking kit does breach the European EMC Directive, but still won't do anything to enforce compliance.
Despite claiming there was no evidence that PLT kit built by Comtrend and supplied by BT was breaching EU rules on electromagnetic emissions, the regulator has now been forced by a Freedom of Information request to publish independent research, commissioned by them, which shows exactly that.
The request was pursued by Peter Walker, a radio amateur who eventually had to take Ofcom to an ICO Tribunal to get the regulator to hand over the study - which appears to contradict Ofcom's line in stating that the equipment tested, which was supplied by Ofcom, does not comply with the standards required by EU legislation.
Ofcom justifies its decision not to publish that research, completed in 2008, on the basis that as it had decided not to prosecute there was no public interest in reporting the results. The regulator also claims to have more research which shows exactly the opposite, but won't provide any more details unless we submit another Freedom of Information request (which we will, of course, do).
Powerline networking sends radio signals over the mains electrical wiring of a house for home networking, but as the mains wiring isn't shielded those signals leak out and can knock out sensitive radio users such as HAM operators. The high-capacity kit now being sold uses a broader range of frequencies, increasing the problem and allowing it to take out FM radio too.
Ofcom has always maintained that there was no evidence to suggest the EU regulations were being breached. The regulator's own site still states "Ofcom has not so far found that there is a breach of the EMC essential requirements" despite the study which states, unequivocally, that the kit tested failed to meet those requirements.
When challenged on this apparently disparity Ofcom told us it wouldn't be updating the site, and relied on the "Tony Blair defence": claiming it has evidence to the contrary, but that it can't share that evidence for reasons that it won't explain; we just have to trust the regulator on this one.
Ofcom also explained that it didn't publish these reports in 2008 as "millions of people have these devices in their homes, and it wouldn't be in the public interest to remove them", pointing out that all the complaints came from a single lobby group so could safely be disregarded - best not band together in future, guys.
So if you don't fancy obeying the regulations then the route is obvious - hand out your kit for free (as BT does with Comtrend devices), get your opponents to organise so it looks like there's only one of them, then rely on the regulator to keep confidential any evidence that makes you look bad (in the public interest, of course). ®
You're obviously missing some fundamental points here.
1. Powerline stuff uses a broadband signal and so covers a very wide range of frequencies from very low to VHF.
2. A signal that has travelled across half the world may well have little residual energy at its destination and will be easily swamped by a local signal. Think nanowatts and picowatts.
3. If I set up some equipment and knocked out your TV and radio reception then presumably that wouldn't matter either because there's only one of you.
4. Standards are there for a reason, in order that a multitude of different systems can coexist.
5. Ofcom appears to be volunteering to be abolished, seeing as it's useless at one of its primary functions.
Ofcom is an evidence-based regulator that suppressed evidence and refused to regulate. The interference from these devices can radiate over several hundred yards and make weak-signal comms impossible. Closer in it swamps even strong signals. You only need one pair of these things in your village to wreck your radio listening.
The EMC reports that Ofcom have now been forced to disclose prove that these PLT devices vastly breach the rules and laws regarding EMC compliance, but Ofcom chose to suppress these reports and deny everything.
They lied to the public, to MPs, to Ministers and to MEPs in the process.
Ofcom is not well-liked by our current government, and I hope strong action is taken to bring those responsible to justice.
Failure to understand radio!
Radio signals may have travelled half-way around the world, but they are easily swamped by locally generated RFI from PLT, Switched Mode Power Supplies, Thermostats, Plasma TV, Valiant Boilers and more. Even local strong signals from a couple of miles can be swamped by signals from PLT!
You should care that a government organisation charged with protecting the radio spectrum has been shown to be corrupt and inept. It might be HF radio that is bearing the brunt of the interference, but VHF is next! There are a new breed of PLT which wipes out everything to 300MHz. You can kiss goodbye to your FM and DAB!
If Ofcom had said they'd measured the kit and while technically in breach of the regulations they were not going to do anything about already installed kit as it would be too disruptive but the manufacturer should not supply anymore infringing kit I'm sure most people would not have been bothered. A judicial review might have forced them to do differently but that's the nature of things.
However this looks like either a degree of incompetence or duplicity (or both) and shows them up as dodgy bunch. So how are we to trust them when they are supposed to be enforcing standards that really matter.
"Tony Blair defence":
aka lying in their teeth about it, then when caught refusing to apologise.