The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

#OccupyFederalCommunications Fail

Posted on | November 25, 2011 | 13 Comments

by Smitty

Slashdot reports:

About 200 customers of the Central Maine Power Company recently noticed something odd after the utility installed smart meters in their homes: household electronics, including wireless devices, stopped working, or behaved erratically. Many Smart Meters broadcast in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Unfortunately, so do many of the consumer gadgets we take for granted these days including routers, electric garage doors, fire alarms, clocks, electric pet fences, answering machines, and baby monitors — even medical devices. The electromagnetic congestion in the home is in some ways similar to the growing electronic congestion in hospitals as they acquire more and more electronic monitors all operating within a few feet of each other.

Sure am glad the FCC has focused on regulating the internet, and not that boring old electro-magnetic spectrum.

However, I’m sure that a new bureaucracy will spring up to handle the tasks now so ‘expertly’ managed by #OccupyFederalCommunications, replete with a Czar, a guilt trip about the amount of gadgets Americans have, while the poor people in Zambiniland have none, a death panel for gadgets deemed too old, and some buyouts so that General Electric, the parent company of the Administration, can sell you less functional equipment. Wow, did that sound bitter?

Managing the electro-magnetic spectrum is among the small subset of tasks the federal government has taken for itself which one could argue are reasonably in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. Thanks for nothing, guys.

What’s also worrisome is that these smart meters broadcast at all. Why? These are power companies, no? They can probably engineer, you know, power line networking, right? Why the need to broadcast at all, one wonders.

via Instapundit


13 Responses to “#OccupyFederalCommunications Fail”

  1. Kyle_Kiernan
    November 25th, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    I have a suspicion, not a certainty mind you just a suspicion, that the smart power monitoring module that might get installed in my house would have an unusually high rate of unforeseen failures.  Same goes for any modules installed at the behest of the feds to monitor my mileage for their “tax per mile” campaigns.
    “Mmmmm, this monitoring module seems a bit cold.  Perhaps a few seconds in the microwave will help it warm up.?”

  2. edward royce
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

    1. Powerline based networking causes too many problems in the powerlines themselves to be useful.

    2. This smartmeter design is frankly idiotic because they shouldn’t be broadcasting constantly.  Instead they should be in receive mode until they get a signal that requests the smartmeter to transmit data and then … well transmit the data.  The vast majority of the time the smartmeter won’t have any purpose in transmitting anything.

    3. Amuse yourself and your friends.  Make a 2.4ghz signal jammer and then drive through neighborhoods overwhelming and crushing all wireless router signals and inflict serious aggravation on one and all.

    4. The whole point behind smartmeters isn’t really to do a reading of how much power you used.  But to instruct the devices in your house to stop using power or to reduce their power usage.  Previously the bureaucrats had to ask you to turn down the thermostat.  Now they can turn it down for you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

  3. Proof
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

    Note to FCC: Our plan, Operation No Carbon Footprint, to seize control of every electronic device in the country  has met a small set back.  Please dial back operations in Maine until we can rollout nationwide. Thanks!

    Signed, The New Green Democrat Overlords

  4. JeffS
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    #3 could be fun, Edward, but is blatantly illegal, if you build it exclusively for jamming.  

    Now, as a mobile platform for some specific but unidentified application that might be a tad bit over-powered…..that’s another matter!

  5. JeffS
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

    There’s a means of avoiding the interference problem, Smitty, and that’s to NOT use so many wireless devices.  I realize that cables running around the floor are unsightly and hazardous, but our reliance on wireless devices for so many household items is bordering on the ridiculous. 

    Not to mention unsecure; sooner or later, some hacker is going to figure out ways of diddling with those appliances.  Convenience is one thing, but one can indeed overdo something.

    I am not advocating a ne0-Luddite approach; my own home has an awful lot of automation and computing capability, and is hardwired for a network.  I took this approach when I remodeled my home because I know just how finite the radio spectrum is.  Even with spread spectrum technology, sooner or later, the spectrum WILL be overloaded. 

    Frankly, I’m surprised this problem isn’t more common place.  It certainly will become more common in the future, given the proliferation of wireless technology.

  6. JeffS
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    Oh, and #1…….also, power line networking (a/k/a “broadband over power lines”, or BPL) also creates significant radio frequency interference if not carefully controlled.  Or even if it is carefully controlled.  This is of little interest to the power companies, but of intense interest to people who use radio for business and fun.

  7. JeffS
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    Whoops!  I forgot to say….your point about the FCC failing to do it’s job is spot on.  They tend to let commercial interests drive policy, and have for a couple of decades. 

  8. Rose
    November 25th, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    When they installed the Smart Meter on our house, the nan0second long blip in the power instantly fried the computer chip in the refrigerator. It immediately started beeping, and would not shut off, the reset button would not respond, and the temperature can no longer be adjusted. It still keeps things cold, and we’re debating whether to replace the chip or just buy a new fridge.

    I want a fridge, and a range, that DO NOT have computer chips in them. A nice old fashioned appliance that works all the time, not subject to chip failure, and a gas range that can still be used when the power is out. It’s a wide open market.

  9. Charles G Hill
    November 25th, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    So far, I’ve had no issues with my Smart Meter: it’s far enough from the Wi-Fi that there’s no interference except right under it, and my appliances are old enough to avoid presenting it with a conflict.  (I do have a cordless phone, but it’s up in the 5.8 GHz band, where it doesn’t run into anything.)

  10. #FAIL Astro Boy Doesn’t Perform Earlier this Week on “X-Factor” – – Know WHY??? | TopicPls
    November 25th, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    […] #OccupyFederalCommunications Fail : The Other McCain […]

  11. Mike Rogers
    November 26th, 2011 @ 3:59 am

    Nasty stuff. You are correct that the 2.4GHz spectrum is fast becoming useless in crowded environments. You are correct that he power company has no business radiating on wifi frequencies used by the homeowners hey are supposed to serve.
    But you are mistaken in thinking that they could use power line networking instead. Intoxicated with the possibility of Internet over power lines (aka BPL) the FCC almost wiped out ham radio in several areas before the evidence piled p too high for them to ignore.
    Next up is their spectrum giveaway to Obama cronies Skyterra/LightSquared, which will destroy GPS.
    I say abolish the FCC: Spectrum users negotiated jut fine before they were

  12. Mike Rogers
    November 26th, 2011 @ 4:04 am
  13. Mike Rogers
    November 26th, 2011 @ 4:07 am

    We want to choose which devices in our homes use wireless, not have the government impose them. We want them to be secure and encrypted, and proof against government meddling.
    We want the option for non computerized appliances, and cars, too.