Enforcing RF Licensing Laws

Discussion in 'Wireless & RF Design' started by jegues, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. jegues

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2010
    Sorry if this is a silly question, but how are RF licensing laws actually enforced?

    They must be able to detect radiated signals above a certain power level and/or in a particular frequency band, right?

    Are they actually actively looking for violations, or does it just turn up as a result of say some interference with other equipment?

    Also, how do they end up tracking down this people that violate these laws, do they just start driving in the direction of increasing signal strength? :p
  2. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    I've wondered the same, and I've seen it come up a couple of times and no specific answer has been give that I'm aware of. IIRC the usual answer is a diversion along the lines of "They can and do prosecute for violation. They WILL catch you. They WILL prosecute you. They are NOT joking. DO NOT attempt to do it, you WILL get caught." All good and valuable feedback, but it does answer the QUESTION.
  3. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I have seen vans with directional antennas in WW2 movies, but more to the point, in England where they charge people a tax to watch TV. In U.S.A it seems you get caught if you interfere with proper communications. In England, it seems you get caught by the local oscillator in your TV.
  4. MaxHeadRoom


    Jul 18, 2013
    Yes it is a TV license to own and operate, at one time it also applied to radio including a car radio, not sure if it is still on the books, but some parts of N.A. also tried a radio/car radio receiver tax, but it has long dissapeared.
    A bit like the illegal receiving of scrambled satellite TV signals, it was mainly un-enforceable, so the Sat Co.s had to come up with fool proof scrambling.
  5. bertus


    Apr 5, 2008

    I Holland the RF Licencing is enforced by the "agentschap telecom"
    When you have having some interference by radio signals, you can call them and they will investigate.
    If one is caught having an illegal transmitter, The transmitter and EVERYTHINg connected to the transmitter will be taken.
    A fine upto 1200 euro will be given too.

    Here is a piece of history of the radio controle dienst (the former name of the AT) in holland:

  6. Papabravo


    Feb 24, 2006
    The usual reason is for being caught is the complaint of a properly licensed operator, verified by an Official Observer or federal employee. The first step is a letter from the FCC outlining the complaint. You have some period of time to tell your side of the story. Ignoring the first letter or providing a frivolous response will escalate to the next level. If you are interested in the process you can view a selection of enforcement letters here:

    For some eye popping fines check the following

    The Utility Industry

    And one more

  7. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I seem to be picking up, "10 per quarter". If they are only clamping down on 40 people a year, a lot of small potatoes are getting away with minor infractions.
  8. joeyd999

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 6, 2011
    This one is pretty funny:

    And it only cost him $31,875, a GPS jammer, and hopefully, his job.
  9. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    yes, the enforcement is usually the result of interferance to a liscensed service. I have seen some of the fcc vans dreivng around, they are white vans with a raised fiberglass roof. in general, if you dont operate unliscensed, they wont catch you. by the way, we have seeral clubs here that participate in hidden transmitter hunts, and they are very good at it.
  10. rogs

    Active Member

    Aug 28, 2009
    There used to be quite lot of 'TV detector vans' (trucks) on the streets here in the UK.
    We have the unusual situation where everyone who buys a TV has to have a licence by law. It costs about $200 a year.
    The money is used to fund the BBC, which is (supposed) to be a completely unbiased organisation. It carries no adverts, and is not controlled by any politcial party, or influenced by goverment orders.
    That's the theory. In practice it's all a bit different, but that's another story.

    These days, because of computerisation, most people who don't pay their licence fee are caught by admin rather than by local oscillators !

    There are quite strict RF licencing laws in force, but the fear of prosecution is much less than it used to be.
    Some years ago, when CB hit the US (breaker breaker one 9 etc..)quite a lot of the kit arrived some time later in the UK, where it was illegal to use (the 27MHz band was already in use).
    Did that stop it? ... no chance. The regulators were inundated with problems from guys who had no clue about RF transmitters, blasting out 100s of Watts of overmodulated RF in the middle of towns, sometimes blotting out TVs for several blocks!
    They took some to court, but when you have non technical magistrates (lower level crime judges in the UK), the crime before them was someone 'playing with their radio illegally', and they didn't take much notice.

    This country is so soft on crime, that when they were giving some low life just a fine for beating up an old lady, there was no punishment that fitted 'playing their radio illegally'... so they mostly got away with it.

    They soon got bored with CB, the illegal FM radios station mostly diappeared once the internet took hold, and mobile phones have taken over anyway... so it's not really so much of a problem here anyway these days...
  11. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    The impression we get from Charles Dickens movies is, Hang 'em for a crust of bread. Newgate prison for picking your nose in public. It seems the pendulum has swung the other way.
  12. KJ6EAD

    Senior Member

    Apr 30, 2011
  13. Art

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 10, 2007
    Who's "They", and in what country?

    We had a local transmitting pirate radio on AM broadcast for six months here.
    He closed because he didn't have any following, not because of any legal issue.
    It was some political thing, nobody actually cared what he had to say.

    There would have been some fuss if someone complained about interference,
    I suppose he had his equipment up to scratch.