What’s the Frequency?

February 26, 2007 | | 4 Comments

Virginians living near Quantico are having their buttons pushed by their military neighbors— their garage door buttons.

The frequency used by many civilian remote controlled devices, including garage doors, is in the range of about 138 to 450 megahertz. In fact, the majority of garage doors operate right around 387 MHz. The government has reserved these frequencies since the 1930’s specifically for emergencies that require military communications and now they’re taking them back without warning.

After September 11, 2001, emergency personnel decided to improve communication infrastructure amongst military and local officials. They have reclaimed many of the higher-end frequencies in that spectrum that consumers had been using. When you purchase most remote-control devices that use this signal, there is typically a disclaimer somewhere that indicates that it could be inoperable if the military exercises that right. This came as a big surprise to many consumers who don’t read the small print. It’s small print for a reason, right?

Some neighbors of Quantico Marine base are asking for compensation from their military neighbors for rendering their wireless entries useless. Fat chance says Lt. Brian P. Donnelly;

“Consumer wireless devices, such as garage door openers, operate on an unlicensed basis, meaning they are required to accept any interference from licensed spectrum users, including the Department of Defense.”

Okay, now we know. But c’mon, maybe give consumers a heads up when you reclaim something that you had given implied permission to use?

Furthermore, now you might be competing with unhappy residents who claim they’re going to fight back by amplifying their signals with a trip to the local Radio Shack. The quick fix is just $30, but it will inevitably lead to scrambled signals that will significantly damage the emergency infrastructure we’re trying to put in place. Local officials and military personnel need to get on the same frequency, but it would help to tune in to the needs of American citizens.

Q: When is a garage door not a garage door?

A: When it’s ajar. (You’ve been a great crowd. Servers work for tips.)

The devices weren’t perfect to begin with. You can open about 1 out of every 256 garage doors based on statistically weak security code measures. Now, it’s time to figure out new ways to open our garages. My suggestions: psychokinesis, manual labor, magic, and the clapper.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user marttj)


4 Comments so far

  1. WTF? on February 27, 2007 9:49 am

    “Okay, now we know. But c’mon, maybe give consumers a heads up when you reclaim something that you had given implied permission to use?”

    Look at the back of your garage door opener. On it will be a label saying that its a FCC part 15 device which must accept any interference from a legally licensed entity on the same frequency range. The military is LICENSED. The garage door opener is not.

    Blame the garage door opener manufacturers that took a crapshoot and lost….

  2. Mark Pike on February 27, 2007 10:09 am

    Point taken. The frequency belongs to the military.

    However, I was trying to say that consumers have become immune to tiny print disclaimers and most people probably haven’t read the back of their garage door openers. Have you actually read the legalese on the tag of your mattress? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.)

    A heads up from the military and local officials would be a courteous gesture to their neighbors. That way you don’t have to come home to find your garage door wide open, your bikes stolen, and raccoons rummaging through your junk.

  3. WTF? on February 27, 2007 3:20 pm

    I understand, but as an unlicensed user the licensed user has NO idea who is on the spectrum operating – since there is no paper trail.

    its not really feasible for the DoD or local officials to go around to every house and say, do you have a garage door opener operating on 390.075 Mhz? The question will be met with a blank stare.

  4. Mark Pike on February 27, 2007 9:23 pm

    No need to go door to door. I guess these new stories and blog posts are doing the job for them.

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