The Federal Communications Commission has levied a hefty fine against St. George Cable, a company that has provided cable service to St. George Island for about 20 years, for allegedly violating rules governing signal leakage and the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and for failing to adhere to an order to cease operations.


The Federal Communications Commission has levied a hefty fine against St. George Cable, a company that has provided cable service to St. George Island for about 20 years, for allegedly violating rules governing signal leakage and the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and for failing to adhere to an order to cease operations.



According to an FCC notice released Sept. 6, the company, incorporated in 1993 and now owned by Charles Sumner, has been ordered to pay $236,500. This amount consists of $150,000 for operating its system with excessive cable signal leakage; $37,500 for failing to cease operations when ordered and operating without authority; $37,500 for failing to install and maintain operational EAS equipment; $6,000 for failing to file the required registration form; and $5,500 for failing to respond to an FCC order to submit a certification of compliance.



The notice said that on Sept. 7, 2011, agents from the Tampa office of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau inspected the St. George Island cable system, and observed 33 distinct signals on aeronautical frequencies emanating from the system, otherwise known as “leaks.”



These leaks, the notice said, affected both radio navigation and communications frequencies, including international distress and calling frequencies that receive heightened protection. “These frequencies are critical for search and rescue operations, including use by emergency locator transmitters on planes and emergency position indicating radio beacons on boats,” it reads. “Harmful interference includes any interference that ‘endangers the functioning of a radio navigation service or of other safety services.’”



Two days after the agents’ inspection, the district director in Tampa office issued an order to the cable company that ordered it to cease all cable operations until the excessive signal leakage was eliminated. The order said the cable provider could “request authority to conduct short tests to evaluate the effectiveness of remedial measures or to calculate the CLI (cumulative leakage index)” but could not resume normal operation on these frequencies without written approval from the Tampa office.



Later inspections, on Oct. 12, 2011, and again on March 19, 2012, found the cable system continuing in operation, and observed several other leaks above the maximum threshold.



The EAS fine stems from a violation of rules that require every analog and digital cable system to participate in the nationwide EAS network, which enables the president and state and local governments to provide immediate communications and information to the general public. These rules require all EAS participants “to ensure that EAS encoders, EAS decoders, and attention signal generating and receiving equipment are installed so that the monitoring and transmitting functions are available during the times the systems are in operation.”



The FCC notice indicates that on Aug. 10, 2011, it received a complaint from a consumer alleging that St. George did not have EAS equipment installed. After agents inspected the system’s EAS equipment and logs, and found it had not yet installed its purchased EAS equipment, the agents warned St. George about its continued non-compliance with the EAS requirements, reads the notice.



The agents also warned the company that it had yet to submit a registration statement with the FCC.



“We conclude St. George’s actions were egregious - given the potential public safety hazard, its blatant disregard for (FCC) authority, and a demonstrated pattern of failing to maintain its cable system,” reads the notice.



Officials at St. George Cable have not responded to several requests for comment.