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"We're NOT from the government, we're here to help!"

As Technical Advisor for the Southwestern Division, one of the successful projects it was my pleasure to spearhead, was here in our own town, Lompoc, CA.. Lompoc, as a city, is far ahead of the majority of the country in some technological areas. Lompoc has a high technology base of personnel and citizens due to it's nearby relationship to Vandenberg Air Force Base, which was to have been the West Coast Launch Center for the Space Shuttle program. One of these cases of their being far ahead of most of the country's technological efforts was with the new BOPL, or Broadband Over Power Line, otherwise known as Internet broadcasting using existing power lines. As Lompoc owns their own power distribution system, they had few impediments to the effort. The company hired to survey the possibilities may have had a slanted bias on the available methodologies available, as that was all they initially recommended. I was apprised of the study in it's initial stages, and mentioned to our Mayor, that there were many interference problems that the company was neither addressing nor bringing to light. I explained that even a few years ago, as I had served as City Radio Officer, that the city itself had been on low band frequencies that would have been wiped out by the BOPL methods. I explained that a great many Amateur Radio operators living in the community would be affected as well as other agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, who operates their long range communications in the 42 MHz range. With wisdom somewhat rare in politicians ( a personal opinion), he requested further hard data that he could refer to the City Council and others involved in the decision making concerned with this project. I assembled much of the material provided by the ARRL, as well as data from Australian and Japanese sources, where the governments had already outlawed the technology due to the massive interference problems encountered. I pointed out that there were as many as 1800 Amateur operators who would be likely to be prevented from operation (and that they all voted, and were quite devoted to their hobby), as well as other problems yet to be seen. At that time only a few cities had tried BOPL, and almost all had abandoned those efforts due to problems. All of these factors were pointed out, as well as additional data provided by other Amateurs in the area, for presentation to the City as hard copy. Amateur Radio had an advantage here, as ARES was not only very active under the tutelage of Ray Lischka, W9EC, but was well established as a participating partner in Police, Fire and Hospital emergency responses, both during exercises and real emergencies. Several lives have been saved by local Amateur efforts, as well as ATV coverage of many natural disasters during the past few years. Many times during fire season, fires would take out county and state communications sites almost immediately. The Amateur community even has permanent positions in the Police dispatch emergency center as well as all the local hospitals. That relationship helped with having our presentation being taken much more seriously. Eric Lemon, WB6FLY contacted the CHP, and got their inputs to the city, even though a decision to change methodologies had already taken place. When the City Council had heard all of the presentation against BOPL, they prompted the survey company to look into alternative methods. The final outcome was installation of fiber optic lines that could not only feed many distributed Wi-Fi antennas throughout the city, but use only the normal and already accepted 803.11A,B&G frequencies and limitations. It is due to be totally implemented soon, and during the Alpha and Beta testing stages, have not been seen to provide any additional RF interference to any agencies or hobbyists. This, when so many places within the country is suffering the problems created by true BOPL, pushed and prompted by poor FCC oversight, have made Lompoc's efforts even more important. We not only have a technical advantage here, were have a leadership advantage, having leaders who have the farsightedness to see ramifications both for and against their citizens, and the sense to do something constructive to make the decisions the side of the citizens, rather than just following the dollars. The effort will undoubtedly be a part of the coming multi-billion dollar Wi-Fi, or wireless services that will allow all citizens to enjoy the advantages of the Internet. My part in this was an honor, in that serving my Amateur community, as well as my physical community, provided me with a very good feeling of accomplishment, and pride in our town and it's leaders.

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Copyright 2001, 2002,2003,2004, 2005 by Paul Andreasen, K1JAN of Mount Desert West (www.MountDesertWest.com).  All rights reserved