D+AS MAGAZINE

FEATURES — The Frequency-Interference Battle

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© 2005 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Spring 2005
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 62-63


The Frequency-Interference Battle
How It Happened

Here is a timeline of key events over the last year, showing how the frequency-interference situation began and progressed.

May 10, 2004
Eglin Air Force Base, near Pensacola, Fla., conducts its first test of a new Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system. The test operates on 390 MHz, the same frequency commonly used by Genie and Chamberlain openers. Dozens of area homeowners call the base to complain that their garage door opener (GDO) remote controls don’t work.

May 21-26, 2004
Eglin conducts a second test, moving the frequency down to 387 MHz. The complaints drop dramatically. A third test, from June 1-4, yields similar success.

June 2, 2004
Col. Russell Miller, Commander of the 96th Communications Group, tells Door & Access Systems, “I have a LiftMaster opener, (and) I was affected like everyone else … If we can do something to lessen the problem, and we can all coexist, that’s the best solution.”

Aug. 17, 2004
Several DASMA opener manufacturers meet with military and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials at Eglin to discuss the problem.

Aug. 24, 2004
Eglin issues a press release about the Aug. 17 meeting, and describes the problem by saying that “several garage door manufacturers were … infringing on the government’s licensing agreement and causing the openers to be locked out.”

Aug. 30, 2004*
Homeowners in the Mechanicsburg, Pa., area complain of interference from a new LMR system installed at military outlets in the area. Congressman Todd Platts (R-York, Pa.) gets involved.

Sept. 3, 2004
In a story in the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, a military official “laid the blame squarely on the garage door opener manufacturers.”

Sept. 17, 2004
DASMA drafts a FAQ document to offer helpful responses to common questions asked by homeowners who are affected by the problem.

Sept. 21, 2004
A delegation of more than a dozen DASMA representatives meets with FCC officials in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 2004
Chamberlain, Overhead Door/Genie, and Johnson Controls (makers of HomeLink), the three companies most affected by the problem, create the Safe and Secure Access Coalition. The group soon hires a top PR firm (Edelman) and a top lobbyist firm (Akin Gump). The Coalition’s purpose: “to prevent the public safety risks and economic burden caused by the two-way radio systems being installed by the DoD” (Department of Defense).

Oct. 22, 2004
DASMA sends a formal letter to the FCC, stressing the potential enormity of the problem and requesting action to minimize the inconvenience to homeowners.

Nov./Dec. 2004
Mark Karasek, Chamberlain’s vice president of engineering and technical director of the Coalition, meets with White House, Senate, and House staffers and others in the federal government to alert them to the magnitude of the problem.

Nov. 2004
The Coalition opens a Web site at www.safeandsecureaccess.org to offer helpful information to affected homeowners. The site says, “The interference … is being caused by two-way, land-mobile-radio systems installed by the Department of Defense …” The site also says the LMR system “poses a far-reaching safety risk to millions of commercial and residential customers.”

Nov. 29, 2004
Interference problems continue in the Mechanicsburg area. Local news media continue to report about inconvenience to homeowners.

Dec. 1, 2004*
The Coalition launches a publicity campaign via a press release and a video news release (VNR). The VNR reporter says, “For the fifty million (openers) that operate at 390 MHz, a new radio system being installed by the Department of Defense will make most of these garage door openers obsolete.” The news is carried by CNN, the Associated Press, and scores of newspapers and television stations from coast to coast.

Dec. 2, 2004
In Chicago, Karasek and Karl Adrian, president of the Access Systems Division of Overhead Door, brief the DASMA board of directors about the Coalition’s progress. Adrian says that 56 million GDOs are potentially affected by the frequency interference problem, and it may cost more than $4.5 billion to fix the problem.

Dec. 2004
The Coalition begins meeting with FCC, DoD, and NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) to discuss potential options for reducing the impact of the new LMR systems on consumers.

Jan. 1, 2005*
The Coalition shuts down its Web site in a good-faith effort to encourage more negotiations with government officials.

Feb. 2, 2005
Karasek attends the DASMA Annual Meeting in Tucson and reports to the DASMA board that the Coalition has made “a ton of progress.” He says the DoD appears to be genuinely working to minimize the impact on consumers.

Feb. 9, 2005
Coalition representatives meet with DoD officials in Washington, D.C. Karasek reports, “It looks like about 25 percent of the LMR systems planned for 2005 are already live, and there are no significant pockets of interference. We may still see a few isolated problems in some areas of the country. The DoD is working hard to be a good neighbor. And the Coalition will continue to work with DoD, NTIA, and FCC to minimize problems going forward.”

Feb. 15, 2005
FCC publishes a Public Notice** on its Web site for consumers who live near military installations. The notice says, “Garage door opener manufacturers stand ready to help consumers … in some cases, making available for purchase, a replacement transmitter and receiver that operate on a different frequency … Consumers experiencing interference should contact the manufacturer of the door opener control or their local installer for information on available immediate solutions.”

* Approximate date
** To download the full notice, go to www.fcc.gov, click on Daily Digest, and use the EDOCS search for “05-424”

To respond to this story, send an E-mail to daseditor@dasma.com.