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Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, (Act) prohibits the use or operation of a radio transmitter, except in accordance with a Commission-granted authorization. Investigations in this area have focused on radio frequency operations conducted without Commission authority or in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the underlying authorization/license. These operations may occur in a wide array of radio services, including, but not limited to, the Commercial Mobile Radio Service, Private Land Mobile Radio Service (PLMRS), Personal Communications Service, General Mobile Radio Service, and satellite services involving satellite earth stations.

Additionally, section 1.903(a) of the Commission’s rules provides that stations in the Wireless Radio Services must be used and operated pursuant to the rules pertaining to their particular service and with a valid Commission-granted authorization/license. Licensees that want to operate after their licenses’ expiration must affirmatively request continued operating authority from the Commission. If a licensee fails to file a timely renewal application, the Commission requires such a licensee to seek temporary or new operating authority or cease operating.

The Cable Landing License Act of 1921 prohibits the landing or the operation of a submarine cable within the United States unless the party landing or operating the submarine cable holds a license issued by the President of the United States. 47 U.S.C. §34. Pursuant to Executive Order No. 10530, submarine cables are licensed by the FCC as delegated by the President. Section 1.767 of the Rules sets out the requirement that an entity must apply to the Commission to modify a cable landing license, including the addition of a new landing point. Specifically, section 1.767(e) and (m) requires the filing of an application when a modification or amendment of a previous license is requested. Like other licensed services, if a licensee providing communications services via submarine cable fails to timely file a renewal or modification, the Commission requires the licensee to seek temporary or new operating authority.

Rules & Statutes

These sections of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, (Act) and the Commission’s rules are not comprehensive but highlight some that apply to unlicensed operations, generally, and to wireless radio services and satellite services, specifically.

Section of the Act

47 U.S.C. § 301 (no person shall operate devices transmitting energy or communications or signals by radio in the United States, including its territories or beyond its borders, or vessels or aircraft or mobile stations within the United States jurisdiction unless without a license or authorization)

Some general rules related to satellites

  • 47 CFR § 25.102 - station authorization is required to operate or transmit energy or communications or signals by space or earth stations

Some general rules related to submarine cables

  • 47 U.S.C. §§ 34-39 - Cable Landing Licensing Act of 1921, requirements for submarine cables operations and cable landing licenses
  • 47 CFR § 1.767 - requirements for submarine cables operations and cable landing licenses

Some general rules related to wireless services

  • 47 CFR § 1.903 - stations in the wireless services must be used and operated in accordance with the rules for the particular service
  • 47 CFR Part 22 - Commercial Mobile Radio and Paging Service
  • 47 CFR Part 24 - Personal Communications Service
  • 47 Part 27 - miscellaneous Wireless Communications Services
  • 47 CFR Part 87 - Aviation services
  • Part 90 - Private Land Mobile Service
  • 47 CFR Part 95 - Personal Radio Service/ General Mobile Radio Service
  • 47 CFR Part 15 - Radio Frequency Devices
  • 47 CFR Part 18 - Industrial, Scientific, and Medical Equipment
  • 47 CFR Part 80 - Stations in the Maritime Services

Relevant web pages relating to wireless services

Procedures and Filing Guide

Filing Guide for Unauthorized Operations such as Private Land Mobile, Commercial Mobile Radio Service

Non-interference related complaints should be filed via the Consumer Complaint Center’s online portal.

  • Please click the “Radio” box.
  • Under the required fields there will be one for “Radio Issues” please select “pirate/unauthorized operation.”
  • In the description field, SED recommends providing any information regarding the entity such as:
    • City/State from which the entity is transmitting
    • Frequency at issue
    • Call sign if mentioned
    • Times of operation
    • Company or entity responsible for the unauthorized operation
    • Contact information for the entity responsible for the unauthorized operation

You may indicate in your complaint filing whether you wish to remain anonymous. SED generally does not contact those who file complaints. SED also does not comment on whether an investigation is initiated, pending, or concluded. Investigations may be concluded without taking any public enforcement action.

If public enforcement action is taken, SED enforcement actions are posted on the FCC website. For more information on what generally happens to complaints referred to the Enforcement Bureau, please see the Enforcement Overview.



Tuesday, December 20, 2022