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First Person FCC

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.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.