Protecting Your Tower
Stan Griffiths, W7NI

Reprinted with permission from the Internet Contest Reflector.
YCCC Scuttlebutt #120, December 1995


Like many of you, I have some close neighbors with some cheap electronic entertainment devices. Also, like many of you, I used to be very active in several contests per year and I would occasionally get an RFI complaint that could usually be resolved with some effort. One particular neighbor, however, chose not to confront me with the RFI he was suffering with, instead, reporting me to the FCC repeatedly, until finally, he stumbled onto the right kind of a complaint... he could hear me in a transistor radio. He had been complaining about hearing me in his three tape recorders (purchased at K-Mart) and the FCC would not cite me on that complaint. Well, anyway, I finally got this letter from the FCC instructing me, in no uncertain terms, to get over there and check out this radio RFI problem. I had 10 days to respond.

At the time, I was working as a Sales Engineer at Tektronix and my expertise was microwave spectrum analyzers. I had about $200,000 worth of demonstrators at my disposal for checking out this problem. When I called on my neighbor, he informed me that it wasn't the radio interference that bothered him, but the tape recorder interference instead. I showed him my official letter from the FCC (that he initiated) and showed him there was no mention of tape recorder interference in it. He explained that the FCC would not take a complaint about tape recorder interference from him and I asked him if he knew why. He said it was because the FCC is just another worthless government body that doesn't give a damn about the little guy. I tried to explain the real reason but of course got nowhere. Of course I insisted we get on with testing for radio interference because I had no option but to answer the FCC's letter.

It was only when I told him that I would have to answer that it was because of the complainant's refusal to cooperate that I was unable to determine the nature and extent of any radio interference, that he let me run any tests. Surprise! Surprise! I was clean except for a little 2nd harmonic from 10 meters that could cause some trouble on channel 2 TV. I fixed it with a lowpass filter and gave a full report to the FCC. The FCC was happy. My neighbor, however, was still unhappy.

With the FCC report out of the way, I told my neighbor that I would be glad to try to help him resolve his tape recorder problems. I borrowed an excellent tape recorder (a Wollensak) from work (Tektronix) and showed my neighbor that Tek's tape recorder was perfectly free of RFI while all three of his were blown away when my Dad was transmitting in my shack. This really made him angry. I then told him that I had a good chance of being able to help him fix his tape recorders, too, but we would have to agree on some ground rules before I could actually work on his recorders, especially since he had showed extreme hostility toward me at the beginning and throughout these tests. He had to agree that I was not to be held responsible for the continued maintenance and future failures of his recorders if I helped him take care of the interference. He totally rejected that idea and said I would be completely responsible for anything that happened to his tape recorders if I dared to touch them. We were at an impasse and I told him there was nothing more I could do and that I would be operating on the following weekends and to expect interference at those times.

He had interference! He sent his son-in-law banging on my hamshack door with threats of violence. His son-in-law had been observing in the news a recent rash of power company tower bombings and suggested to me that my tower could come down the same way! All it would take is a quarter stick of dynamite in the right place. I knew he was right and it seemed like there was nothing I could do to protect against it. A determined vandal will scale fences, fend off guard dogs, defeat alarms, and do almost anything else if necessary. I was really worried.

I think it was my wife who suggested I take a look at our insurance coverage. I called our insurance agent and we had a discussion about insuring my towers against vandalism. He assured me that they were covered in our home-owner's policy and I told him I wanted to make certain the coverage was adequate since I had had a real threat of serious damage from a neighbor. I also told him that I had put my three towers up for a total cost of about $5000 but I wanted them covered for replacement by brand new material professionally installed and that would run about $15,000 if they were destroyed. He wrote a rider on our policy and the fee was very modest and certainly well worth every cent.

Right here is where I had a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself! I decided to let my neighbor know about my insurance policy. Being a salesman, I know that the way you deliver the message is critical to your success and I knew just how to deliver this message!! I called on him personally and informed him that I had solved my tower problem. He said, "You mean you got that @#&*% interference fixed?"

I said, "No, as we discussed before, the interference is your problem. My problem is that your son-in-law has threatened to blow my towers down and I can assure you that I feel safe and confident that he will not do it now."

"Oh yeah, what makes you so &%*$ sure?"

"Here are the facts: I paid about $5000 in cash to buy the material to build those towers and antennas. Most of it was used and I got it at bargain prices. All of the labor was either my own or friends who helped me for free. It will cost my insurance company $15,000, which they will pay me in cash, if those towers happen to come down. Do you have any idea what a set of towers I could put up for $15,000??? I'm excited! I can hardly wait to find out!"

He was speechless. In fact he has been speechless on this subject for 21 years. I don't get on the air much anymore which I guess is part of the reason I don't hear from him. I also mentioned that the insurance company has his name and the name of his son-in-law on file and if anything bad happens to my towers, he should expect a call from an insurance investigator, the local police, and the FBI since deliberately tampering with a Federally licensed radio station is a Federal crime. It is clearly in his best interests that my towers remain as they are, standing tall in my yard, and he fully understands this now.

I know this is not the "touchy, feely, friendly" solution that leaves you and your neighbors as best friends, but I don't think that was in the cards in this situation. I hope there is an idea or two here that might do you some good should you need it. Sorry for being so long-winded but that was quite probably the most satisfying "contest" I have ever won . . . and I have the trophies standing in my yard to prove it.


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