What happens to the BPL Systems with IBEC gone?

Some very interesting questions surrounding IBECs sudden closure and the BPL orphan systems like the one on Washington Island WI-001L:

Guys –

My question is, what happens if the hardware is left as is ?  Even assuming the BPL system use is stopped, won’t the hardware still be humming along and interfering ?

No, I never got an antenna up before the cold weather and the hard, hard ground showed up.

Here are some recordings I made last year during and after a power outage:


Chuck Olson, WB9KZY
Washington Island, WI

Chuck WB9KZY’s recordings catch the BPL non-interference pledge out – revealing that it was pure bunk and the BPL system is a major source of RFI.

There are some really sticky legacy issues, as the Island Coop can’t legally simply leave it up and running until it breaks or try to run it themselves.

Per Ed Hare W1RFI at the ARRL HQ [Bold Unline is Mine]:

If the system there follows the pattern I’ve seen elsewhere, it operates about 15 to 40 dB over the FCC limits and doesn’t notch the NTIA bands. Now that it is going to be disconnected, but powered up, it will continue to make noise, but have two additional rules violations associated with it — it is no longer controlled as to power level and frequency as required by the rules and it does not have an operator at all, much less one that is listed in the BPL database.

At this point, has anyone talked to the utility? Do we know what they intend to do?  They really need to get that system operating legally, or climb all the poles and disconnect the power. Simply turning off the head end is not sufficient, as that adds to the illegality by making the system that is still generating carriers uncontrolled.

It seems unless the Island gains full control of the whole system getting itself listed in the BPL database as a control operator and supports the system fully, it will be an illegal system with likely every increasing problems and liability for the Coop for its rule violations.

Perhaps a third-party manager could be brought in, though whether another provider could be found that would take over the ex-IBEC Access-BPL system isn’t very likely – especially if the system were expected to remain in continuous operation.

Presently it would seem the best choice could be to power down the head and disconnect every pole mounted unit, leaving everything in place until a long term solution is found, or better weather allows “havesting” of the orphaned gear for salvage.

What a mess! Worse is the costs may not end with a shut down, depending on how the funding repayment in respect to discontinuance works.



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One thought on “What happens to the BPL Systems with IBEC gone?

  1. In other IBEC BPL systems I’ve measured, the systems were operating well above the FCC emissions limits. It is likely that this is the only way they can make the system work, as at the limits, they would need to have repeaters often on the lines. Even if someone gets control of the system, if the system is running hot, it is only a matter of time before measurements by someone are made, and a formal complaint initiated.

    I have also noted that, until a formal complaint is filed, many of the IBEC systems did not notch the federal bands that are required to be notched under the rules. I didn’t get any reports from the island, though, about non-ham band notching.

    Steve is right; the system will continue to generate carriers, even if not in use, and under FCC rules, the BPL operator must have the ability to control the frequency and power levels of those carriers. When IBEC completes is closure, no one will be in control of the system, which is also a rules violation. That system either needs to be controlled or it needs a truck roll and pole climb to disconnect the power from the equipment on the poles.

    At that point, the only entity that can allow access to the system is the co-op, so it would be my opinion that they are the defacto operators of the system.

    I’d suggest that the local hams on the island contact the utility, make sure they are informed about the need to control the system and ask them to immediately disconnect the power from the unused equipment on the poles. It is likely that after a few weeks of non-service, their customers are going to be most discouraged, and the system, even if restored (after a fashion) may never regain the modest success it had.

    One retired BPL engineer I know told me that he does not miss the struggle of keeping the system running from day to day. IBEC had the engineering expertise to keep fiddling with the system; it is likely that a replacement operator will not.

    This would be an ideal time for the co-op to finally end what has probably been a nightmare for them.

    Ed Hare, W1RFI

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