Why Does the FCC Care about Ceiling Lights in a Downtown L.A. Highrise?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Actor Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester on the Addams Family TV show.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to know how many Brookfield Office Properties employees it takes to screw in some new lightbulbs at their 41-story downtown Los Angeles highrise—and it is willing to fine them $16,000 a day to find out.

The FCC issued a citation to the managers of the Ernst & Young Tower on February 7 after asking them for nine months to do something about static that Verizon Wireless alleged was coming from GE fluorescent ceiling lights inside the Financial District building. The company said the static interfered with voice telephone calls and cellular data exchanges.

According to the FCC citation, the agency told the property manager on April 30, 2013, that Verizon Wireless complained about the building’s lights and said they were the source of radio waves that interfered with a Verizon Wireless 700 MHz LTE cell site. The telecom cited a GE bulletin that some of its “Ultramax ballasts” were inadvertently sending out high-frequency radio emissions.

GE offered to exchange the defective lights. Brookfield said it was already looking into the problem, according to PC World.  

On May 7, the FCC told the property managers to fix the problem, whatever it is, and provide an interim report in 30 days and a final report in 60. They got neither.

On November 21, Verizon Wireless was still complaining, so the agency “used portable direction-finding equipment and confirmed radio emissions on Verizon Wireless’ licensed 700 MHz frequencies were emanating from ceiling fluorescent lights/ballasts inside the Building.”   

Flourescent lights are regulated by the FCC because of their inclusion as industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) equipment. Lighting is rarely an issue in the world of frequency bands where electromagnetic radiation from everyday devices can clash with radio signals. But the lightbulbs are held to the ISM standards.

Brookfiled must respond in writing within 30 days and file a final report within 60, but it can also file a protest at the 30-day mark.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

LA Building's Lights Interfere with Cellular Network, FCC Says (by Stephen Lawson, PC World)

Downtown Skyscraper Cited for Interfering with Cell Network (by Samantha Schaefer, Los Angeles Times)

Citation for Brookfield Office Properties ( Federal Communications Commission)

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