back to article America's comms watchdog takes on the internet era's real criminals: Pirate pastors

US airwaves watchdog the FCC has taken a lot of flak in the past year for its determined effort to roll back its own rules on net neutrality – but that issue aside, the federal regulator has its finger on the pulse of America in the internet era. Which is why it is reassuring to see the hard line that continues to be taken on …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Religious leaders do seem to have the idea that they have a divine right to promote their intolerant dogma regardless of any of Caesar's laws to the contrary.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      So shut down their equipment - the 'true' ones will keep broadcasting.

      (Or at least people will claim to hear the voices)

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Of all places

      "Pirate pastors"

      Sounds like FSM discrimination to me!

    3. P. Lee Silver badge

      Whooosh!

      I think the point of the article was that causing a controversy over something irrelevant is a time-honoured way of distracting people from your actual, significant mistakes.

      Also, seems to be trying to restore favour with (American-definition) liberals after destroying net neutrality.

      1. Steve Knox Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Whooosh!

        Also, seems to be trying to restore favour with (American-definition) liberals after destroying net neutrality.

        Why would (American-definition) liberals care about some superstitious cult leaders abusing an obsolete broadcast technology that is wholly irrelevant to their streaming services? Or desire additional support for cable companies to bilk their customers?

        If this guy's trying to appease US liberals, he's failing miserably.

  2. James Anderson

    Pirate radio is harmfull

    We had an outbrake in England in the 60s which resulted in Tony Blackburn. Nuff said.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

      Nothing made in England could ever outbrake anything contemporary ... not even Alfas.

      On the other hand, there is a reason I used to listen to Radio Caroline. Which also gave us John Peel, thus absolving them from all Blackburn related crimes.

      On the gripping hand, there was a church in Menlo Park (Northernmost edge of Silly Con Valley) that used to stomp all over KZSU's broadcast on Sunday mornings. The authorities refused to do anything about it. So the students took to removing sections of their antenna coax on Saturday night. The church complained to the school, the school told 'em to call the cops if anything illegal was happening ... The church gave up on the idea of broadcasting after five or six go-'rounds.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

        Oh, most British cars could outbrake a Lancia Montecarlo.

        And I doubt you would be listening to Radio Caroline all the way over there.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

          If anything, the Montecarlo (Scorpion in the US) had problems overbraking (front lockup) ... not that anybody ever drove the thing fast enough to worry about brakes. Anemic four cylinder motor and possibly the worst suspension ever put under an Italian car precluded even an approximation of spirited driving.

          I got me O and A levels in Yorkshire. Had no problem tuning in Radio Caroline.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

            That's the S1. They took the brakes out for the subsequent versions.

      2. Agamemnon

        Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

        Silicon Valley Kids will take your shit apart, literally.

        (I'd have stuffed needles in the antenna coax, let `em figure it out.)

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

        the students took to removing sections of their antenna coax

        Too obvious. Push a pin through it to create a short, and cut it off flush with the insulating sheath. Hard to find without the right test gear, and potentially much more destructive to the connected equipment.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

          Pinning coax is supposed to be "hard to find", but in reality the "right test gear" is common sense and a continuity tester. Once you know it's shorted, the fix is easy. (Yes, a TDR helps, but it's hardly necessary.)

          Besides, the students were daring the church to call the cops. Was kind of the point. The last weekend out, a couple of "men of the church" kept watch over the parking lot on Saturday night. It was obvious they were there (lighting cigarettes in the dark is a bit of a give away). One of the kids took a walkie-talkie and crawled through the bushes alongside the building ... when he got close to the coax, he keyed the mic a couple times, signalling the kids out in the street to create a ruckus (staged fender-bender). When the guards were distracted by a couple of yelling kids, the coax was borrowed[0] yet again. The idiots didn't even notice until the next morning ...

          [0] Borrowed. It was always returned to the church the following evening.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

            "[...] when he got close to the coax, he keyed the mic a couple times, signalling the kids out in the street to create a ruckus (staged fender-bender). "

            Sounds like the plot for a film in the genre of: Animal House; American Pie; Porky's; American Graffiti.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Pirate radio is harmfull

              Those movies were a reflection on society, not vice versa.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Veni, vidi, venal

    If only Pai had been there to take away Nero's fiddle, we'd be speaking Latin and Pai would be paid in denarii by... hmmm?

  4. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Stop

    FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

    (topic)

    is what the FCC is really there for. Also regs for 'unintentional radiators' (i.e. electronics gear with a CPU in it, broadcasting on RF frequencies) and things that might interfere with radio reception. Oh yeah, and those telephone things. [re-classifying internet as "a phone" was an Obaka-era power grab, and is NOT their jurisdiction]

    This _IS_ their normal jurisdiction, by the way. But I'd agree that streamlining things for Puerto Rico might be helpful. The FCC however isn't responsible for installing telephone poles and cell towers. But if it's in ANY way obstructing them, yeah I'd be unhappy with them. [I'd suspect environmental wackies doing the obstructing before FCC is blamed]

    And yeah, sometimes pirate stations cause problems with legit RF usage. But I suspect that if nobody complains, they'll be left alone.

    [this is like making fun of the meter maid that tickets cars all day whenever the parking meters expire...]

    1. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

      Powergrab or no, my guess is that the FCC simply took example from a certain fruity vendor that's notorious for spewing out "new" patents by inserting "on a phone" in existing patents.

    2. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

      Good gawd/ess ... I actually agree with most of one of Bob's political posts! Lack of unnecessary CAPS also noted ... now can we kindly work on losing the third-grade name calling?

      Beer. It's Friday & I have a smokehouse to fill ...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

        you agreed? well, I *DO* make sense! Welcome aboard!

        (related note: CAPS where I want them, for emphasis, along with *ASTERISKS* and other punctuation, based on how I see the need - it's how I speak, so it's also how I _write_ - monotone IS so boring, after all)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

          This is the Modern World ... italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum. They are less visually distracting and don't take away from your message, unlike caps. IMO, of course. I know, you don't give two fucks about my review.[0]

          [0] Many apologies to Paul Weller ... I should be ashamed of myself :-)

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

            When talking about radio emissions, one should always use the Arial typeface.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

              Nobody should ever use Arial. It's fscking hideous.

              1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

                "Nobody should ever use Arial."

                I imagine that the choice is made by the CSS on this site, so presumably you can change it in your browser somehow. (I've never bothered to learn how to do that. Life's too short to be fixing other people's stylistic idiocy on a site-by-site basis. Their content is bad enough: https://m.xkcd.com/386/.)

                Unless I can use a style attribute on a tag ... <span style="font-family:'Comic Sans';">like this</span>

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

                  My jab at Arial should in no way, shape or form be taken as a jab at ElReg ... I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that ElReg uses the ugly thing by default. I haven't had it installed on any of my computers in over two decades.

              2. handleoclast Silver badge

                Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

                Nobody should ever use Arial. It's fscking hideous.

                Arial, like all sans typefaces, is a vile choice for body text. Sans faces are good for signage (in most cases: there's a road sign in Lincolnshire which Illuminates some of the many failings of sans) but a very poor choice for body text. Even Tsichold, in later life, recanted his enthusiasm for sans faces.

                However, given a choice between Arial and Comic fucking Sans, which would you go for? Well, my local county council are fuckwits so about 10 years ago they advised students and unemployed people on their training schemes that CVs should be in Comic Sans. Had I been an employer receiving such, that application would have been filed in the circular cabinet.

                1. 's water music Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum

                  Well, my local county council are fuckwits so about 10 years ago they advised students and unemployed people on their training schemes that CVs should be in Comic Sans

                  I wonder if it was some sort of overspill from education policies? In the days when fonts cost actual money and DTP (of a sort) was becoming available in education, Comic Sans was one of the the few widely available, free fonts whose glyph for lower case 'a' was the more hand-writing like style. Its use became wide-spread in primary education and may have bled through from LEAs to LAs.

                  These days, of course, its primary use is to smoke out typography bores :-) although your example might have just been a Tory Councillor have a joke by fucking with the local unemployables

          2. Ken Hagan Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

            "This is the Modern World ... italics and/or bold (and sometimes strike) for emphasis work better in this forum. "

            And like so much else in the Modern World, the &lt;b&gt;new&lt;/b&gt; method is more work than the *old*.

            Edit: and doesn't actually work properly.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

              > Edit: and doesn't actually work properly.

              Seems ok here. Encoding problem in your browser?

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

              The Source is available to all who seek it, Ken.

        2. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

          UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS.

          -- Robert E. McElwaine

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

            Ah yes, McElwaine. Poor deluded guy. He should never have been kookified; he had enough on his plate as it was. May he rest in peace.

            https://sww.popmartian.com/popnut/mcelwaine/7th-coming/obit.txt

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

              "Ah yes, McElwaine."

              Where McElwaine came, Argicbot followed. Careful with your recipes.

              A friend of mine spent quite a bit of time in the early 1990s trying to convince me that McElwaine's kookery was cover for coded messages to NSA operatives. Mind you he was convinced that most of the Claudia Schiffer gifs being posted in the binary froups were stegenography containers for textfiles. He might have been right as they tended to only actually use 6 bits for colour information.

        3. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

          Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

          I am NOT Bombastic Bob...BUT...it seems WE ARE of the same ilk....and YES monotone is so very boring !!!

          ANYWAYS! The FCC can go pound sand. What happens when Quantum Entangled devices become all common place and NO radio waves are emitted because communications will becomepoint-to-point via synchronized trapped atoms of Argon or Xenon that can transfer PETABYTES PER SECOND?

          What happens then when Radio Stations, TV Stations, Remote Audio/Video Gear, End-Users with personal devices, and other services ALL move off of AM/FM/UHF/VHF bands into the netherspace of Quantum Entanglment-based communications technologies that have been calculated by German and Chinese scientists to operate at 10000x to 50000x the speed of light? What then? You can't TRACE a quantum-entangled pair! You can NEVER find the users if they disable their GPS systems on the phone (i.e. you can root your phone's baseband OS to do that -- most still use the 1980's era HAYES AT command set to talk to the underlying comms hardware!) How would the FCC regulate that?

          ...

          P.S. Have a Byte 10011011. It's Good Fer Ya !!!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

            No, you are demonstrably not Bob. Bob has clues about technology.

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: FCC enforcement of radio spectrum usage

      "Also regs for 'unintentional radiators'"

      Like those cheap Chinese switching power supplies that (somehow) seem to pass Title 47, Part 15 testing and still manage to swamp the ham and commercial broadcast bands.

  5. GrapeBunch

    Cheeses tucking cryogenics; one might wish that worked with cold cows in your bed.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    It's America!!

    These pirate radios could be emitting mind-altering waves about tasty, buttered Shia Crescents, Deep-Hearted Anti-Semiticism, Austrian Economics or Russian Ties.

    It's a menace. One moment you think you are in America, and the next you are in Philip K. Dick's "The Hanging Stranger".

    In other new, Michelle Obama has received a cheque for USD 65 million for a book she hasn't even written yet.

    It's America.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: It's America!!

      I'll do it for $32.5 million

      I Haven't written a book yet either, you can even put 'M. O'bama' on the cover if you like.

      Mines the one with bulging pockets.

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Basic Requirement

    To use any frequency for radio transmission in any country one needs to get the appropriate license. Depending on the use and license, the transmitter may be assigned specific frequencies. The frequency assignment can be technically complex but is really very simple - transmitters in a band should be interfering with other transmitters in their area. Broadcasters are assigned fixed frequencies. Note for radio communications like cell phones, the carrier has the license not the user and carrier is responsible for maintaining the cell towers.

    Pirate broadcasters are nothing new, it just pops periodically and is normally handled by the appropriate bureau as a routine administrative/judicial matter.

    1. teknopaul Bronze badge

      Re: Basic Requirement

      Whateva. But UK garage!

      There is nothing important on legal fm radio these days.

      However pirate radio has spawned a fair few important cultural revolutions.

      I'm feeling radical because a policeman just flicked fag ash on my work trousers.

      Grrr.

  8. Epobirs

    The author seems to be confused about why the FCC exists in the first place. Or the idea that an organization can do more than one thing at a time.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "...why the FCC exists in the first place."

      I came here to post something about why the FCC exists in the first place.

      It appears that you've handled it. Thank you.

  9. ariels-again

    Extremists!

    I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the true danger here: 87.9MHz FM is right there at the longest wavelength that a consumer FM radio can receive! I assume this is some sort of extremism.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Extremists!

      Counter-e.g.: The FM band is 76 to 90 MHz in Japan.

    2. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Extremists!

      <quote>87.9MHz FM is right there at the longest wavelength that a consumer FM radio can receive! </quote>

      NOT always true.

      I had an analog tuner that would go all of the way down to below 87.0 MHz, in fact, it was capable of picking up a (US TV) channel 6's audio.

      So perhaps you are thinking of those digital ones.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Extremists!

        I've got an old Russian FM receiver that's labeled 65 to 75 MHz, and an even older hand-made American box that says 40 to 55 MHz in gorgeous copperplate. Neither work. Yet.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Extremists!

          Neither work. Yet.

          ...how do you know?

          Seriously though, is there anyone transmitting around you (or indeed anywhere at all) in those bands? Honest question...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of alarm related...

    I heard a story of a utilities company that used multiple 'man-trap' doors along the side of one its call centre buildings so that staff didn't all have to come through the main entrance. (These are cubicles the size of a shower with entrance and exit doors - you pass through one door and it closes behind you before the other opens so that only one person can go through at a time.)

    Due to a fault in the door controller late one night, all the doors failed safe - i.e. wide-open. Security only realised when a fox wandered in and set the motion alarms off!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sort of alarm related...

      Our man-trap to a transaction-related facility inside a bunker-sort of big windowed room was in full view of all of us 'work-hard, play-hard' types. We usually waited for some pointy-hair from sales & marketing to show up to brag on our secure setup to enter the trap...and somehow the exit door always managed to malfunction in full view of the grunts and the non-plussed entourage he'd brought with him. It was vital we left the viewing area so our guffaws were not visible to the 'victim'. We would 'come to the rescue' after a few moments of frantic signaling attempts from inside. Just wish we had video from back then.

  11. raving angry loony

    Textbook example

    Article is a textbook example of how to write with a particular bias in mind. In a very obvious way, since us geeks can sometimes stumble on more subtle arguments I guess? It's the type of thing I'd expect to see in the Daily Mail UK, not the Register, at least not in a news section rather than the opinion section.

    I guess it's horrible that in the USA a government regulator actually consider treating everyone equally. Pirate radios have the nasty habit of stepping all over stations who actually paid for their little section of the spectrum. Doesn't matter what their message might be. And it's so unnecessary when they can just broadcast online and anyone interested can pick it up without all the problems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Textbook example

      "[...] when they can just broadcast online and anyone interested can pick it up without all the problems."

      That's the point - "anyone interested". Like spam they want a way to increase coverage with a new audience - rather than just the faithful.

      Reminds me of the days when ISPs came down hard on advertisers spamming newsgroups. One advertiser complained that their appropriate group had too many competing advertisers - so they had made unwanted posts in a group that seemed like an easy new audience.

      I wonder if broadcasting online is more expensive in hosting fees than using a terrestrial transmitter?

  12. DougW
    Big Brother

    Orwell was right.

    Maybe I'm a bit more paranoid than usual. Apart from "encrypted" or pay-channels there is no reason for a cable box since modern televisions can already decode the digital signal. So the companies are plainly greedy. But the darker side of that is with one box per set, the cable companies can monitor what the users watch, and then sell that data. I don't mind the small change for two boxes, but I do mind loosing the controls of my TV to block advertisement channels. These days most of what I watch is streamed anyway. TV is basically dead. </soapbox>

  13. Suricou Raven

    Playing with fire.

    Christian leaders in the US have a serious persecution complex, and a willingness to sue. To them, any government action against them is serious oppression and must be fought. I would not be at all surprised if one of the churches takes the FCC to court, arguing that their first amendment rights of speech and religion are being violated. They'd lose, but it could be one of those cases that drags on for years. Especially as they could just point to any non-Christian pirate station and argue 'the FCC went after me, not them, so they must be targeting me for my religious content.'

    Do not underestmate the fearsome power of the Christian legal groups.

    There was a case finished in California just last week - a few Christian bible study groups had been taking over the communal area at a retirement community four times a week to hold hundred-person-plus bible study and praise sessions. When their regular crowds made it impossible for anyone else to use the area, the homeowners association ordered them to desist. Christians sued, claiming that this order violated state non-discrimination law. Not only did the churches get the legal right to take over the communal area for their groups, they also won damages from the homeowner's association for infliction of emotional distress.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Playing with fire.

      There was a case finished in California just last week - a few Christian bible study groups had been taking over the communal area at a retirement community four times a week to hold hundred-person-plus bible study and praise sessions. When their regular crowds made it impossible for anyone else to use the area, the homeowners association ordered them to desist. Christians sued, claiming that this order violated state non-discrimination law. Not only did the churches get the legal right to take over the communal area for their groups, they also won damages from the homeowner's association for infliction of emotional distress.

      Were those hundred plus people mostly living in the retirement community? If so, I can't see anything wrong. If residents wish to use the communal spaces for communal activities, where is the problem?

      If a significant number of attendees were from outside the community, of course, I could see why they would be asked to desist.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Playing with fire.

      "Not only did the churches get the legal right to take over the communal area for their groups"

      They won't have won exclusive access and the fastest way to shut them down is to invite a few jamaican sound systems to setup at the same time.

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