Recent FCC Warning: Survey Dealers are Responsible for their Radio Programming Actions

If you want to print this blog entry out, this pdf [ SurveyEquipmentDealerFCCLiability ] might produce a better looking document.

I have written before about FCC regulations concerning the data radios used by the Survey industry before:

[ Pirate Surveyors ]

I have written summaries of FCC rules that concern manufacturers of Survey equipment.

Now it is time to write about the responsibility of ‘Survey Equipment Dealers.’

Let Us Start with an Example

A recent FCC action reinforces the responsibilities of equipment dealers and manufacturers who provide and service radio equipment. I am specifically talking about GPS equipment dealers who deliver and configure equipment for customers.

Section 90.427(b) of The Rules states that:

“[e]xcept for frequencies used in accordance with § 90.417, no person shall program into a transmitter frequencies for which the licensee using the transmitter is not authorized.”

This directive seems pretty clear to me, but let me put a Very-Fine-Point on this with a Very-Clear-Example:

Your local survey dealer sells a surveyor ‘Pirate Joe’ a RTK GPS pair with a UHF transmitter radio (internal or external: it matters not) for the base and a Rover with an internal UHF receiver.

The customer, a surveyor, has decided to not obtain a FCC License because they feel they will not get caught.

In order to deliver and commission the equipment the dealer puts the 4 standard itinerant frequencies into the transmitter radio. No FCC Call Sign is entered into the transmitter as there is not one to enter.

The end customer is happy, accepts the equipment and goes to work.

What might be the consequences for the dealer as a result of this action you ask?

The FCC can impose a monetary forfeiture of $16,000 per day, $122,500 for a single act. In addition, the equipment can be seized and forfeited and the party responsible for the errant programming can be criminally sanctioned and ultimately imprisoned.

This leaves me wondering “how many survey dealers in the United States are in a position to flush $16,000 per day down the drain?”

Not many I expect. (But if you happen to be in that position, I would love to work for you. Trust me, I know how to flush toilets and I can burn money like nobody else!)

But, I happen to know that this happens EVERY single day, all over the country, by plenty of well meaning otherwise law abiding survey dealers.

Mark, you are OVER-REACTING!

When I wrote the ‘Pirate Surveyor’ article a storm of criticism was released. I heard from 4 to 10 people per day for several months claiming that I was up in the night.

In this case, I would like to put an even finer point on my claims by summarizing a recent FCC action.

CAM Electronics Distribution (, a company that sells intercoms, pagers, wireless microphones, security equipment in Elmsford New York programmed a customer’s security system with the frequency 455.500 MHz. They got caught. They got cited. Luckily for them, they got their hands slapped.

You can read the FCC Citation (and I strongly encourage you to do so) here:

[ C201432380001 ]

What can Dealers Do?

As a dealer, how can you protect your customers and your company from FCC action?

  1. Establish a file folder for sold devices.
  2. Print out a copy of the frequency, bandwidth, call sign settings when you configure and deliver the radio.
  3. Print out a copy of the customer’s FCC license (you can search for and download a PDF copy of the license from the FCC ULS Search.)
  4. Staple the License to the Configuration report and put it in the folder.
  5. Have a written policy that spells out certain employment termination for employee violators, provide a copy to every employee and have them sign a list showing they received a copy.

You are going to get pressure from 80% of you customers to program radios with unlicensed frequencies. I know this. It would be reasonable to have your customer read this document and them ask them to provide you with a $300,000; 20-year indemnity bond, just in case you get caught.

Our Survey Supply Company won’t get Caught

Sorry, but the word that comes to my mind is ‘Bullshit’.

You won’t get caught. You will get turned in by (take your choice):

A disgruntled employee
A disgruntled customer
A competitor
Your customer’s competitor

Just like most of the recipients of FCC actions, someone will turn you in.

I suppose that if you are positive that you don’t currently have and will never get any enemies, have no dissatisfied customers, have no unhappy employees then you are safe.

Good luck with that, brother!

It really would be easier to just require your customers to get licensed and only program licensed frequencies into their radios.

As always, good surveying and mapping to you!

ps:     Let me just emphasize that I am not providing legal advice and I strongly encourage you (the reader) to seek counsel from a lawyer specializing in FCC enforcement.

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