HFU HF Underground

Loggings => FM Free Radio => Topic started by: Swede P on October 27, 2011, 1920 UTC

Title: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on October 27, 2011, 1920 UTC
Given the way FM in the 88-108 Mhz band propagates, wouldn't it be very easy for the radio authorities to zero in on an FM pirate?
At least a SW pirate's signal has bounced off the ionosphere in a number of directions and takes time to find.

If I were to go FM, I would pre-record my programme and save it on a sort of mp3 player connected to a tiny FM transmitter. Given that line of sight is a vital part of FM broadcasting, I would then attach the transmitter-mp3 player set up onto a weather balloon.

Of course, I can defer to those of you more expert in the field to comment on how practical that would be.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: ChrisSmolinski on October 27, 2011, 2130 UTC
Yep, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau's site is full of FM busts: http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/ (http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/FieldNotices/)

Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Dxer92 on November 08, 2011, 0101 UTC
I was thinking about making my own FM pirate radio station. But it is probably not such a good idea since the FCC will probably be at my location in 10 minutes lol.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: cmradio on November 08, 2011, 0243 UTC
If you're in a good spot, a Part-15 can get you several miles.

Peace!
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: diymedia on November 09, 2011, 0152 UTC
It's actually pretty easy to get away with FM microcasting.

First, the FCC has to find out about you, and they only investigate complaints.

Then, they have to come to your area and find you, when you are on the air. If the nearest field office is hours away, that can take awhile.

Then, they have to go after you - it can take years before the escalation protocol results in something "dangerous" (like a fine).

Then, they have to make you pay the fine - the FCC does not have the power to collect on the air own.

If they want to take your gear, they have to bring in the cops (field agents are not cops, cannot do "probable cause" searches, etc.)

The FCC runs an automated DF network that can "localize" an HF pirate (to within 30 sq miles) within seconds of the tx going on. That's a logging.

The reasons why there's so much enforcement activity on the FM side isn't because it's an FCC priority - it's because there's a *ton* of FM pirates!
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: John Poet on November 09, 2011, 0231 UTC
And, of course, there's a bunch of licensed FM stations who are anxious to turn in any pirates who might compete with them, and they aren't above lying about 'interference'.  (On shortwave, on the other hand, you pretty much have to piss off the wrong guy, right "Commander Bunny"?)

Hell, licensed stations routinely file objections with the FCC, to any new station attempting to become licensed in their market area.  It's their "standard operating procedure".  Some of those even have the balls to tell the truth about their motivation:  "If you license this new station, it will hurt our revenues."  I guess 'socialism' is fine as long as it's the established capitalists who are benefiting from it; competition is something with which they should not have to be bothered.

Yes, it's easy for the FCC to track you down on FM (or any other frequency range) if they actually bring a vehicle to your town, or just happen to be there doing routine monitoring of licensed stations when you go on the air.  But if you're not within line-of-sight range of any of their monitoring facilities, they aren't going to know about you until someone complains.  If you don't go 24/7 or many days in a row, but instead do a more "hit and run" operation which does not repeat for, say, a month or two, you could get away with it for years, or even forever..



Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Dxer92 on November 11, 2011, 1740 UTC
Yeah i was going to buy a FM transmitter that ranges from 1 WATT to 6 WATTS which might only get 5 miles max lol. But I was not going to do a 24/7 broadcast that would be pointless in my opinion. But yet i am 12 miles away from Philadelphia, PA. Who knows if it will even reach that far haha. I was going to broadcast say from 1 AM to 2 AM on a Saturday night well technically Sunday morning. Which who would i interfere at 1 AM in the morning i mean common.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Dxer92 on November 11, 2011, 1743 UTC
    Wait, how far could I go with a power of 500MW. Which is not even 1 Watt. With a FM transmitting antenna 1/2 wave and is up 20 ft in the air. How far do you think i could go?
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: cmradio on November 12, 2011, 0856 UTC
Well, I had solid stereo for 2.5mi with 100mW and a 1/4 wave up 15'. I had the high ground.

A buddy who had low ground needed 20W and a 5/8 wave to cover much the same area.

Terrain is a VHF broadcasters best friend or worst enemy.

Peace!
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: John Poet on November 13, 2011, 1432 UTC
Well, I had solid stereo for 2.5mi with 100mW and a 1/4 wave up 15'. I had the high ground.

A buddy who had low ground needed 20W and a 5/8 wave to cover much the same area.

Terrain is a VHF broadcasters best friend or worst enemy.

Peace!

Yeah, anything like the first result is exceptional.  Most tend more towards the second result if you're in a city, with the usual obstructions and hills, and not some wide-open flatland...

Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on November 13, 2011, 1654 UTC
Just listened to an old William Cooper episode this weekend. He said something interesting that is relevant to this discussion. Apparently, as well as hiring airtime on WBCQ and other shortwave outlets, he had a small FM microtransmitter as well. According to him, as long as his signal did not cross state lines (or international borders into Canada or Mexico), that the FCC, being a federal body, had no jurisdiction - and as such since his home state (Arizona) did not regulate broadcasting at all, he was free to transmit all he liked completely unregulated and it would be completely legal.

Do you think he understood that right?

Of course, for me, it is just a curiosity. In Sweden, you almost need a permit to take a pee. I doubt I could even get away with microbroadcasting for very long. On the other hand, given my remote location, unless I was interfering with another FM signal (all of which come from stations in other larger towns), perhaps the authorities would place me low on the list of priorities.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: ChrisSmolinski on November 13, 2011, 1707 UTC
Just listened to an old William Cooper episode this weekend. He said something interesting that is relevant to this discussion. Apparently, as well as hiring airtime on WBCQ and other shortwave outlets, he had a small FM microtransmitter as well. According to him, as long as his signal did not cross state lines (or international borders into Canada or Mexico), that the FCC, being a federal body, had no jurisdiction - and as such since his home state (Arizona) did not regulate broadcasting at all, he was free to transmit all he liked completely unregulated and it would be completely legal.

Many pirates have tried to use that same claim - that the FCC has no right to regulate intrastate radio. They get about as far as the people who claim the Federal income tax is unconstitutional.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on November 13, 2011, 1719 UTC

Many pirates have tried to use that same claim - that the FCC has no right to regulate intrastate radio. They get about as far as the people who claim the Federal income tax is unconstitutional.

I was afraid of that. It is not enough to be right, technically. If the feds want you, they'll get you.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Lex on November 13, 2011, 1738 UTC
I was, and still am, a big fan of William Cooper.  That influenced me to try low power FM during the 1990s, but the few kits I managed to get working I soon burned up.  I remember those shows where he asserted his FM micropower station wasn't under federal jurisdiction.

He tried similar arguments about income taxes and other issues.  Google his "Harvest Trust" entity and related topics that were popular during the 1990s when some patriot movement folks believed they could set up trusts to protect their assets like the big boys.  Didn't work very well in most cases.

John at DIYmedia could speak more authoritatively on how the FCC interprets the Commerce Clause.  I can say that in my experience as a regulatory enforcement agent for the US Department of Labor during the 1980s-'90s, we were trained to interpret the Commerce Clause very broadly in our favor.  We were told to look for evidence that a business affects interstate commerce.  There's an important distinction between "affecting" and "engaging in" interstate commerce.  We'd establish that a business affected interstate commerce by documenting that they had a telephone or used the US mail service.

If the FCC field operations guides are worded similarly, the agent is just going to look for the most tenuous connection to interstate commerce to satisfy their assertion of federal jurisdiction over LPFM.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on November 13, 2011, 1821 UTC
Isn't it a rather obvious conflict of interests for an agency to be given the power to interpret the law that pertains to their operations?

Anyway, back the question of being caught. I would still be interested in your (or someone else's opinion) on the practicality of having a weather-balloon-mounted platform. Of course, each broadcast, the balloon, recording device and transmitter would be lost - but beyond that, I think it would be a fairly fool-proof way of getting away with it.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Lex on November 13, 2011, 1925 UTC
Isn't it a rather obvious conflict of interests for an agency to be given the power to interpret the law that pertains to their operations?

The agencies don't interpret the law.  Their legal departments do that based on court decisions.  Generally speaking, with most appeals against citations received from federal agencies, the courts have upheld federal jurisdiction and rejected most attempts by plaintiffs or defendants to argue the feds don't have jurisdiction.  In every case where I was called as a witness for my DOL agency when an employer appealed the citations, the attorneys for both parties routinely stipulated federal jurisdiction as a given without argument.

Unfortunately most attempts to argue against federal jurisdiction are met with disdain by courts and US attorneys, and the news media usually portray such efforts as the mythology of kooks and extremists.  It's not going to get any better as the concept of states' rights - the logical opposite to federal jurisdiction - is usually framed by the media in the context of racism.  To even argue against federal jurisdiction is to risk the implication that the defendant/plaintiff or appellant is a racist.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on November 13, 2011, 2015 UTC
It all seems pretty frustrating.

The logical jump from FM microbroadcasting and jurisdiction to racism is quite a feat of mental acrobatics.
I think, however, the charge of "racism" has been so overused and diluted that it will no longer have the same emotive force it once had. It will be interesting to see what the next bugaboo will be once "racism" has cried its last "wolf".

Besides, don't racists (even literal ones) have freedom of speech as well? And even if an appellant is truly a racist, how does that address the question of jurisdiction?

Still, I might be going off on a tangent. I think it is neat to have an insider on the forum. Basically, at least when it comes to broadcasting, the rule is not to mess with the feds.

Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: diymedia on November 14, 2011, 0152 UTC
Yep, the feds effectively settled the commerce clause issue way back in 1934, I write a bit about it here:

http://www.diymedia.net/archive/0210.htm#020610

Until recently (the last decade), the FCC's been very protective of its jurisdiction and position as exclusive regulator of the airwaves. Which is why I find it somewhat amusing that the agency hasn't gone ballistic about state-level anti-pirate laws on the books in FL, NJ and NY.

Then again, the FCC can use all the help it can get regarding pirate enforcement, because the "problem" is way, way larger than the agency can deal with.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on November 14, 2011, 0206 UTC
Thanks for that link, diymedia.

As for:

Then again, the FCC can use all the help it can get regarding pirate enforcement, because the "problem" is way, way larger than the agency can deal with.

I actually find that to be a bit encouraging.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: cmradio on November 14, 2011, 0609 UTC
Don't think for a minute they won't declare pirates a "matter for National Security" and call in the military to deal with them - they did in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics :o

Peace!
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: zackers on March 08, 2012, 1912 UTC
Looking over the NOUO's at the FCC site over the last few years, it appears the bulk of them are to pirate operations in the FM band. There are a handful in the 1600-1710 kHz range and only one I saw for a shortwave pirate (July 2011, The Crystal Ship station). I am guessing the FCC is not bothering anyone who doesn't have a complaint filed against them, i.e. they are not actively monitoring any specific frequencies for pirate operations. I would guess that in any area a legally licensed FM broadcaster is likely to hear about a pirate operation fairly quickly, especially if the pirate maintains a schedule and transmits more than a very short period in a day. They are the most likely to file a complaint to the FCC about pirate operations in their areas.

I remember when I was in college my dorm had a "dormitory broadcasting service" on FM which covered maybe a couple blocks and broadcast mainly elevator music. One weekend some of the students hijacked the transmitter and started playing music more to the liking of the dorm residents.
 ;D
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Tom S on October 12, 2012, 2206 UTC
Coming in very late to the discussion, but I kind of like the tethered weather balloon idea. 

Unfortunately, these days there's a shortage of helium so it can be very expensive any more.  Unless you wanted to try flammable hydrogen, a weather balloon might be more trouble than it's worth.

On the other hand, if you live in a windy location a large kite and a very light transmitter/mp3 player payload might be feasible. 
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on March 31, 2013, 1109 UTC
Thanks, Tom. I am rather late in my reply.

To be honest, I was not even thinking of a tether; rather, I was prepared to sacrifice the balloon after each broadcast. I can't believe that the idea of a tether did not occur to me. Good thinking.

On the other hand, if helium is truly at a premium these days, I may well be back to square one - tether or not.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Albert H on August 30, 2013, 2035 UTC
Given the way FM in the 88-108 Mhz band propagates, wouldn't it be very easy for the radio authorities to zero in on an FM pirate?

You'd be surprised how difficult it can be!  Over here in Europe, we NEVER broadcast from home - it's easy to put a transmitter, car battery, MP3 player and an aerial up a high tree on a hill and get plenty of coverage with just a few tens of Watts.  Many of the land-based FM pirates over here use UHF, microwave or even wireless ethernet links from studios to transmitters.  The transmitters are usually at the top of a housing "project" - easy access with standard Fire Brigade keys!  Some of the stations in major cities use hundreds or even thousands of Watts.  Many are technically indistinguishable from the "legal" stations.

Be bold!  Don't mess around with two or three Watts.  Get 40 or 80 going, and get some sensible coverage.  Get your modulation quality and deviation right - audio limiting is essential.  Make certain that your transmitter is "clean" - no spurs or harmonics - that precludes the use of ANY of the BA1404, BH1415 or BH1416-based junk.  Don't buy the Chinese crap off Ebay either - they just cause massive interference!  If you interfere with other services, you DESERVE to be caught and heavily prosecuted, so make sure you don't!
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: ka1iic on September 04, 2013, 1739 UTC
One thing that hasn't been mentioned so far and should be a *priority* part 15 or otherwise is the fact that your signal must be 100% clean of harmonic content otherwise you will have the FAA on your tail and those folks DON'T mess around... and for good cause...  Use great care.  I'm not promoting such operation but folks need to be informed :-)

Just sayin'...

73 Vince
ka1iic

WBCQ is a GOOD idea tho...
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: atrainradio on September 08, 2013, 0019 UTC
Well I've been experimenting with FM since last July of 2012. Nothing's occured yet. But then again I put out no more then 4.5 watts. So..... My range is only about 2.5 miles, and I'm in a really rural area. No interfrence on any other station (and that's crucuial if you don't want to have someone complain about interfrence). So yes, if your in a crowded city like, the bronx or san fransisco, then its quite easy because the FCC is ALWAYS patrolling the streets. But in my area (farm land and small to sometimes bigger towns) the FCC isn't concerned becasue they wont excpect a pirate there. They expect them at liberal colleges and inner cities where more of the liberals and minorites are.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: diymedia on September 08, 2013, 1702 UTC
The FCC gets concerned any time there's a complaint. They don't just go after the "liberals and minorities." But if you're running a clean rig and not making waves (there's a variable) you have a very good chance of being unmolested. I ran a pirate station in a Midwestern capital city for 4.5 years and nothing happened except for some curious hams foxhunting me. Many of the local broadcasters knew what was going on and looked the other way.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: Swede P on September 09, 2013, 1029 UTC
"WBCQ is a GOOD idea tho..."

Indeed. In the end I resorted to buying time on WBCQ after all. Not the same thrill as getting involved in my own pirate stuff, but if the main idea is just to get your message out, there is a benefit to taking the path of least resistance.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: atrainradio on September 10, 2013, 0019 UTC
I know they don't just go after minorities. I didn't mean it like that. They go after pirate they catch wind of.
Title: Re: Isn't it rather easy to get caught?
Post by: William Hassig on September 15, 2013, 0215 UTC
About the tethered kite or balloon, Don't tether it with a wire or anything conductive if you are anywhere near powerlines. As for balloons you can make hydrogen with water and DC electricity but if you do be very careful. BTW, the same process will make pure oxygen which is also very dangerous.