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2 Puerto Rico co.’s face $25K fines from FCC for disrupting doppler radar

The Federal Communications Commission handed down notices against two local companies — WiFi Services Caribbean Inc. and Buzzer Net LLC — which face a $25,000 fine each for operating networks that violate the integrity of the Federal Aviation Administration’s doppler radar in San Juan.

In separate notices, the federal telecom regulator described the reasons for its decision to mediate with the wireless internet service providers for interfering with the weather radar station.

In the case of WiFi Services Caribbean Inc., the company was “apparently operating two Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices in an unauthorized manner that caused interference to an FAA terminal doppler weather radar station in San Juan,” the FCC said, noting that the action violates Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934.

In 2003, the FCC allocated additional spectrum for unlicensed use by U-NII devices in the 5 GHz band as a means of promoting competitive wireless broadband services.

“In particular, some wireless internet service providers rely on U-NII devices to provide point-to-point broadband connections within their networks. U-NII device operators are authorized to operate radio transmitters in specific portions of the 5 GHz band on an unlicensed basis, but they must comply with technical rules specific to U-NII devices to prevent harmful interference to radar stations,” the agency explained in its notices.

On May 21, 2018, the agency issued a warning to WiFi Services Caribbean Inc. about its unauthorized operation, at which time the company’s President, Jorge M. Baragaño, said the network and devices were FCC-certified and installed and configured properly.

However, about a month before, the FAA reported it was detecting interference from a source operating on or near the 5 GHz frequency. The FCC followed-up and found the source of interference coming from the Miramar Plaza building in Santurce. FCC staff visited the site and found the source of the problem, eventually instructing WiFi Services Caribbean Inc. to alter the configuration of its devices to operate on a different frequency. Although the company complied, the FCC still found it in violation of applicable laws.

Meanwhile, Buzzer Net LLC was apparently operating a U-NII device, also in an unauthorized way. In October 2017, the FCC cautioned the company against what it was doing, which was also interfering with the FAA’s doppler radar system.

In June 2018, the federal regulator issued a written warning to Buzzer Net, warning it that its unlicensed radio transmitter violated federal laws. In this company’s case, the signal was coming from the roof of the Red Mango Building at 101 Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan. Upon further inspection, the FCC determined that the device was also misconfigured, which constituted a violation of the same Section 301. It is also facing a $25,000 fine.

Both companies have 30 days to either pay or file a written statement seeking a reduction or cancellation of the FCC’s proposed fines.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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