FCC Proposes Fines for Violations of RF Exposure Limits by Rooftop-Mounted Antennas

The FCC recently proposed fines against two antenna operators for violations of the FCC’s RF exposure rules for antennas mounted on a building rooftop in Phoenix, Arizona. The antennas in question were operated by Wirelessco (a subsidiary of Sprint) and T-Mobile and were located on a shared rooftop platform that was accessible to the general public from two adjacent patios. As discussed below, these enforcement actions remind antenna operators, as well as the owners of buildings, towers, and other infrastructure, of the importance of compliance with the FCC’s RF exposure rules. It is also important to note that, while the FCC held the antenna operators liable for the RF exposure issues in this case, the building owners could have been subject to liability under applicable OSHA regulations if they failed to take action.

In this case, FCC field agents acting in response to a complaint from the building owner conducted an inspection of the building’s rooftop antenna area. On the basis of the agents’ findings, the FCC issued separate Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NALs) proposing a forfeiture of $60,000 for T-Mobile and a forfeiture of $25,000 for Wirelessco for failing to adequately prevent public access to the areas immediately in front of antenna panels where RF emissions exceeded the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limits for the general population. Specific shortcomings identified by the FCC included:

  • The absence of RF exposure notices or signs near or in the building penthouse or patios warning of the exposure hazard in the adjacent (and “easily accessible”) antenna area;
  • RF exposure signs on the antenna panels that were worn, fading, and/or obstructed, and which did not delineate or explain what areas may exceed the RF exposure limits;
  • The absence of barriers that would impede access to the front of Wirelessco’s antenna panels, where RF exposure would be the highest; and
  • Inadequate barriers that would impede access to the front of T-Mobile’s antenna panels (T-Mobile did have 3-foot tall orange plastic posts set up near the panels, but the links connecting these posts were either missing or broken)

The FCC also observed graffiti, pens, and cigarette butts in front of the antenna panels, indicating that the general public has actually accessed the area where the “general population” MPE limits were exceeded. The FCC further observed that the building’s management and maintenance personnel worked on the rooftop from time to time, including in the antenna area, but were never provided any information or training by the antenna operators on RF exposure.

Complete copies of the NALs are available here [http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1112/DA-15-1298A1.pdf] (T-Mobile) and here [http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db1112/DA-15-1299A1.pdf] (Wirelessco).