FCC Denies Expert Linears’ Request for Waiver of 15 dB Rule, Petition Pending

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I guess I just dont understand why Flex would be against this? Something to do with the new amplifier?

Really, I dont understand.

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Kent Olsen

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Posted 3 years ago

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Gerald - K5SDR, Employee

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Official Response
I received an email today from a ham who misunderstood our position.  After he read my response an the public information, he was in complete agreement with our position.  Please share this with anyone who is misinformed.

Here is my email sent to him earlier today:
We DO NOT want them to maintain the 15 dB rule, which is completely antiquated and unnecessary.  Our new PowerGenius XL amplifier design already supports the ability to amplify milliwatts to kilowatts internally so it is not a technology issue for us. We have to attenuate the signal on the input of the amplifier in order to reduce 50W down to milliwatts to stay within the current rules just the same as the petitioner does.

FlexRadio 100% supports the original FCC request for comment to change the rules permanently for ALL manufactures of amplifiers - not just one. That would provide a level playing field for everyone making an amplifier in today's market.  

The following is from the FCC Order with my emphasis added:

"The other, FlexRadio Systems (FlexRadio), supports the proposed rule change but argues that granting Expert’s waiver request while the rulemaking remains pending would unfairly advantage one manufacturer over others and be contrary to the public interest."

We would like the 15 dB rule lifted for our products and our competitors products at the same time. Otherwise every manufacturer has to individually go through the waiver process.  

Isn't that fair and reasonable? 
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering / CTO

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Official Response
I'd like to rewind a bit here and make sure everyone understands what happened:

1. First, Expert Linears filed a Petition for Rulemaking on April 7, 2016 which was assigned RM-11767 by the FCC.  This petition sought to remove the 15dB gain limit on HF amplifiers.  
2. FlexRadio filed support for this petition on June 1, 2016.  All good so far!
3. While I can't specifically comment on why, Expert apparently did not want to wait for the NPRM and filed a request for waiver of the rules and was assigned WT Docket number 16-243.  The process and explanations for why you would file a waiver can be found here.  Note that in order to request a waiver, you must meet this legal hurdle (verbatim from 47 CFR § 1.925 (b)(3)): 

The Commission may grant a request for waiver if it is shown that:

(i) The underlying purpose of the rule(s) would not be served or would be frustrated by application to the instant case, and that a grant of the requested waiver would be in the public interest; or 

(ii) In view of unique or unusual factual circumstances of the instant case, application of the rule(s) would be inequitable, unduly burdensome or contrary to the public interest, or the applicant has no reasonable alternative.

Because Expert Linears are already selling their amplifiers, modified, in the USA, along with every other manufacturer, there is nothing inequitable, burdensome, etc. about the rules.  ALL amplifier manufacturers are following the rules in unison today.  The applicant not only had a reasonable alternative to requesting a waiver, they were currently exercising it (limiting the gain).  Just like everyone else.

4. The FCC requested public comments to this waiver on July 29, 2016 with a cut-off date of September 13, 2016
5. FlexRadio does not support one manufacturer (Expert) having an advantage over all other manufacturers including Icom, Yaesu, OM Power, Elecraft, FlexRadio Systems, etc.  We filed comments in opposition to the waiver on August 1st.  I was frankly a little miffed to have to spend time writing comments in opposition to something that I think a manufacturer shouldn't file in the first place -- a request for an personal waiver to the rules that everyone else is following, but would like removed, after already requesting this in a Request for Rulemaking.  I do, however, commend Expert Linears for taking the time, energy and funding to request the Rulemaking in the first place.
6. After FlexRadio filed comments, Expert doubled-down in new comments on August 26, 2016, stating again that an immediate waiver of the rules should be granted to Expert
7. The FCC reached an independent decision on December 23, 2016, relying in part on comments from all concerned, and the decision aligned with FlexRadio's position.  In short, the waiver was denied.

RM-11767 is still before the FCC and will be ruled on in due time.

Again, FlexRadio System's official position is that we support removal of the 15dB limit.  But it should be removed for all manufacturers in due course of the FCC's normal business (as was stated in our comments to the waiver).

I encourage all of you that would like to understand how the FCC does business to read the well-considered decision from the FCC as well as all of the petitions and comments referenced in this note chronicling the process.