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Outdoor Use of Beacons Challenged

  • ZDNet, Friday, April 17, 2015 9:50 AM

There's a robot lawn mower saga in the offing at the FCC, and the outcome may have a big impact on the future of automated lawn care in the U.S. In January, iRobot requested an FCC waiver to a rule that "prohibits the use of fixed wireless infrastructure, in order to obtain equipment certification for and market a robotic lawn mower." On March 6, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) filed comments with the FCC objecting to the waiver. Here's the issue: The NRAO operates three radio telescopes in the U.S. that listen to the heavens, observing frequencies around 6.7 GHz (the NRAO also operates the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile, the most complex telescope ever built). One of these observatories, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, is surrounded by one of the few "quiet zones" for radio transmissions in the country. The area around the town of Green Bank has strict prohibitions in place to prevent signal interference, which has made it a safe haven for purported sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Clearly the NRAO takes its signal interference seriously.

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