GCHQ & CAA Concerns Safety Issues Regarding Powerline Technology and Ofcom's Regulation of this Technology

John Petters made this Freedom of Information request to Civil Aviation Authority

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Civil Aviation Authority,
Power Line Technology and Associated Home Networking Devices
(PLA/PLT) sometimes referred to as Homeplugs, operate by inserting a radio frequency signal into the mains electricity wiring, which is not designed for the purpose, as verified by the technical report by PA Consulting, commissioned by Ofcom.

“Fundamentally, with PLT, the power network is being used for something for which it was not designed.”

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binarie...

As a result, the mains wiring acts as an aerial and the radiation emitted by the powerline transmitters (PLT) causes environmental pollution within the scope of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 2(1) (b).

This radiation severely interferes with the radio spectrum
including HF (High Frequency, known as Short Wave) and VHF (Very High Frequency) and is proven to cause radio equipment to be unable to operate as intended as the law requires. This is likely to include potentially, emergency services like fire, police, ambulance, air traffic control, Instrument Landing Systems, etc.

The sale and marketing of electronic equipment is governed by the Electromagnetic Regulations 2006 (EMC 2006) based upon an EU directive. This is the law of the land and throughout Europe. All equipment must comply with the ‘essential requirements’, which state:

“4.—(1) A reference to “essential requirements” in relation to equipment is a reference to the
requirements set out in paragraph (2) and in the case of fixed installations shall include the
requirements set out in regulation 5.
(2) Equipment shall be designed and manufactured, having regard to the state of the art, so as to ensure that—
(a) the electromagnetic disturbance it generates does not exceed a level above which radio and telecommunications equipment or other equipment cannot operate as intended; and
(b) it has a level of immunity to the electromagnetic disturbance to be expected in its intended use which allows it to operate without unacceptable degradation of its intended use.

By its failure to regulate PLT as it is obliged to do, Ofcom is in breach its statutory duty as defined by EMC 2006,
http://www.england-legislation.hmso.gov....

“37.—(1) Except in relation to the descriptions of apparatus
referred to in paragraph (3), it shall be the duty of the following authorities to enforce these Regulations—
(a) in Great Britain:
(i) OFCOM insofar as action taken to enforce a regulation relates to the protection and management of the radio spectrum; and
(ii) local weights and measures authorities within their area;”
And its statutory duty under the Communications Act 2003,
“S3 - General duties of OFCOM
(1)It shall be the principal duty of OFCOM, in carrying out their functions—
(a)to further the interests of citizens in relation to
comunications matters; and (2)The things which, by virtue of subsection (1), OFCOM are required to secure in the carrying out of their functions include, in particular, each of the following—
(a)the optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum;”

Maplin Electronics Ltd, which retails PLT equipment stated,
“Unfortunately the Devolo (and other Homeplug) devices can cause radio interferance, however it should not be as severe as you've experienced.”

BT who supply Comtrend adaptors as part of the BT Vision package stated,
“....we are aware that the Comtrend technology used, whilst
complying with the EMC Regulations, has the potential for
interference to be caused to certain radio frequencies from its use of the mains wiring as a transmission medium.”

Yet Ofcom has a duty to protect the radio spectrum.
Ofcom claims,
“On the evidence, Ofcom has not so far found that there is a breach of the EMC essential requirements. Ofcom has therefore decided against taking further enforcement action at this time.”

However, the Deputy Information Commissioner ordered Ofcom to release the report on tests it commissioned in 2008, which it fought to conceal from the public, into Comtrend PLA equipment as supplied by BT, of which it claims to have allowed about 1.8 million pairs to continue to pollute the environment.

The report in fact stated the opposite to Ofcom’s statement that the regulator had no evidence of non compliance.
The report said, “Ethernet Powerline Adaptors do not satisfy the essential requirements of the EMC Directive”.

The report can be seen here:
http://www.ban-plt.co.uk/downloads/ERA-R...

http://www.ban-plt.co.uk/downloads/ERA-R...

Ofcom’s Enforcement Officer, Clive Corrie, stated in November 2008, “For enforcement action to remove PLT equipment to be considered proportionate, Ofcom would need to establish that the apparatus does not meet the EMC essential requirements and generates harmful
interference.”

He commissioned the report which was published in September 2008.

Adam Higgitt (Director, Government and Parliamentary Business,
Ofcom) in his written answer to John Hayes MP of 31st January 2011 said,
“All electrical and electronic products sold in the UK must comply with the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations (EMC)(2006) which are based on a European Directive. The person who places the products on the market must ensure that the products comply with the regulations and are marked accordingly.”

The report however said,
“Ethernet Powerline Adaptors do not satisfy the essential
requirements of the EMC Directive”.

Ed Vaizey, MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries stated to John Hayes MP on my behalf 10 Feb 2011,the EMC regulations,
“set out key minimum (essential) requirements about the level of electrical disturbance from equipment with which a person must comply or risk criminal proceedings.”

And

“Ofcom is responsible for their enforcement where there is a radio spectrum protection or management issue".....I can assure you that any instances of interference into radio services are taken seriously and that Ofcom will continue to investigate and take action on a case-by-case basis".

But the Register states,
“Ofcom therefore denies there is any problem. Europe is apparently debating bringing in some laws on uncontrolled radio emissions, but until that happens the regulator can't, and won't, do anything about it.”

And

“Currently that only hits radio amateurs and those listening to shortwave radio, but faster PLT kit goes higher up the dial and has attracted concern from the Civil Aviation Authority as well as taking out DAB broadcasts and MW transmissions too, though Ofcom claims not to have received a single complaint along those lines.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/05/...

However a draft document entitled, “Power Line Technology and Associated Home Networking Devices”, dated 10th March 2011, circulated by Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) proves that it is not only radio amateurs who are concerned and that Ofcom’s statement is flawed.

The document indicates that an increase in pollution of the
environment by way of noise has already been noted, which could hamper the very important national security work undertaken by the organisation. This is a matter of public interest, where our national security is concerned. Those organisations charged with protecting the public need to be given the tools with which to do the job.

GCHQ clearly takes the view that Ofcom’s abject failure to enforce the regulations against PLT is potentially compromising its ability to protect the UK.

The document reported that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is concerned about safety of life issues as a result of interference from PLT.

In the light of the above serious concerns I am requesting under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, as well as the Freedom Of Information Act,

1 All documents, notes, e-mails, memos etc (redacted to remove personal details) the CAA holds about or with reference to Powerline Technology (PLT / PLA)

If this work is expected to exceed £449 in cost, you may limit the information to documents between 1st January 2009 and 1st May 2011, to a cost of £449 but you must justify such limit by providing a full breakdown of the time taken to find and redact the documents.

Yours faithfully,

John Petters

FOI Requests, Civil Aviation Authority

Corporate Centre
Information Management

Dear Mr Petters

The CAA acknowledges receipt of your Information request.

If your requirements are unclear, or the information is held by another public body, we will contact you in the next five working days. Otherwise the information we are able to release, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environmental Information Regulations 2004, will be assembled and made available to you within 20 working days from today’s date. If an exemption applies to any of the information requested an explanation will be provided.

Should you wish to discuss any aspect of this request, I can be contacted on:
01293 573456. Please quote reference E0001144.

Yours sincerely

Rick Chatfield
FOIA & EIR Case Manager

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FOI Requests, Civil Aviation Authority

Dear Mr Petters

I am writing in respect of your recent application, of 6 April 2011, for
the release of information held by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Your request:

Reference: GCHQ & CAA Concerns Safety Issues Regarding Powerline
Technology and Ofcom's Regulation of this Technology.

In the light of the above serious concerns I am requesting under the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004, as well as the Freedom Of
Information Act,

    

1.  All documents, notes, e-mails, memos etc (redacted to remove
personal details) the CAA holds about or with reference to Powerline
Technology (PLT / PLA)

    

If this work is expected to exceed £449 in cost, you may limit the
information to documents between 1st January 2009 and 1st May 2011, to a
cost of £449 but you must justify such limit by providing a full
breakdown of the time taken to find and redact the documents.

Our response:

In assessing your request in line with the provisions of the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), we are pleased to be able to provide
the information requested. We can confirm at this time that the only
information redacted is the names of third parties.  All other
information is to be released.

However, the information we have is too large to send electronically.  We
therefore, respectfully ask that you provide a postal address to which we
can send the information to.

This can be done by sending your address to the CAA’s FOIA requests
mailbox from your own email address.  This will eliminate any possibility
of your home address becoming public.

The address to send to is: [1][CAA request email]

If you are not satisfied with how we have dealt with your request in the
first instance you should approach the CAA in writing at:-

Mark Stevens

External Response Manager

Civil Aviation Authority

Aviation House

Gatwick Airport South

West Sussex

RH6 0YR

[2][email address]

The CAA has a formal internal review process for dealing with appeals or
complaints in connection with Freedom of Information requests.  The key
steps in this process are set in the attachment.

Should you remain dissatisfied with the outcome you have a right under
Section 50 of the Freedom of Information Act to appeal against the
decision by contacting the Information Commissioner at:-

Information Commissioner’s Office

FOI/EIR Complaints Resolution

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

[3]www.ico.gov.uk/complaints.aspx

Should you wish to make further Freedom of Information requests, please
use the e‑form at  [4] http://www.caa.co.uk/foi.

Yours sincerely

Rick Chatfield

FoIA & EIR Case Manager

CAA INTERNAL REVIEW & COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

§ The original case to which the appeal or complaint relates is
identified and the case file is made available;

§ The appeal or complaint is allocated to an Appeal Manager, the
appeal is acknowledged and the details of the Appeal Manager are provided
to the applicant;

§ The Appeal Manager reviews the case to understand the nature of the
appeal or complaint, reviews the actions and decisions taken in connection
with the original case and takes account of any new information that may
have been received.  This will typically require contact with those
persons involved in the original case and consultation with the CAA Legal
Department;

§ The Appeal Manager concludes the review and, after consultation with
those involved with the case, and with the CAA Legal Department, agrees on
the course of action to be taken;

§ The Appeal Manager prepares the necessary response and collates any
information to be provided to the applicant;

§ The response and any necessary information is sent to the applicant,
together with information about further rights of appeal to the
Information Commissioners Office, including full contact details.

Rick Chatfield
FoI & EIR Case Manager

The [5]CAA Website Review - your chance to comment

 

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References

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3. http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints.aspx
4. http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catego...
5. http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=...

Dear Mr Chatfield,
Did you receive my address details via your web site request? Your e-mail address was not published to me on whatdotheyknow.com

Kind regards

Yours sincerely,

John Petters

Mark Salter left an annotation ()

There is an email listed on the CAA website you might aslo wish to try John:-

foirequests@caa.co.uk

John Petters left an annotation ()

Thanks Mark, I found it on here too. Sent yesterday afternoon.