Ramsey Electronics has been well known in micro-radio circles for selling small Part 15 transmitter kits that often function as many folks’ first introduction to unlicensed broadcasting. A few years ago Ramsey started selling transmitters that put out much more power, at least 1 watt, which greatly exceed the Part 15 limits for unlicensed operation on the FM band.
Ramsey’s way around the fact that these transmitters are illegal to operate in the US is to label the high-power kits as “export only,” and attach this disclaimer:
The end user is responsible for complying with all FCC rules & regulations within the US, or any regulations of their respective governing body.
Well, it looks like the FCC doesn’t accept Ramsey’s work-around, issuing a $25,000 fine to the company for selling unauthorized transmitters. According to the FCC, the Ramsey transmitters aren’t “type-accepted” for use on the FM band, and therefore cannot be legally sold in the US. All type-accepted equipment is inspected and approved by the FCC for its intended use.
With regard to Ramsey’s contention that the high-power transmitters are legal because the company doesn’t intend them to be used in the US, the FCC says,
This exemption, however, applies only to devices that the manufacturer actually exports. … Ramsey admits that it does not actually export all of the FM35WT and FM100BWT devices it sells. Rather, it attempts to shift the burden for compliance with the Commission’s rules entirely to the buyer by requiring the buyer to sign a certification form which purports to absolve Ramsey of any responsibility regarding the operation and redistribution of the devices.
I don’t believe Ramsey transmitters ever had the best reputation amongst microbroadcasters, mostly due to their little Part 15 kits like the infamous FM10 series. (There’s a wealth of opinions and experiences with these kits in the Usenet alt.radio.pirate archives. Here’s a link to a 1997 comparison between the Ramsey FM100–for which they were fined–and a British Veronica transmitter. Here’s a Google Groups link for dicussions on Ramsey’s FM10 going back at least 10 years.)
And I’m a bit surprised it took this many years for the FCC to finally take a shot at Ramsey, since they’ve been selling the higher-power kits for at least nine years. But, then again, there has been a step-up in enforcement against unlicensed broadcasting as of late.
I wonder if this action will spread to other companies that make transmitter kits available. Progressive Concepts has been making the 1/4 watt Panaxis FMX transmitter available for years on an “export only” basis — but perhaps the “export only” restriction is more true at PC than Ramsey.
However, the most well regarded micropower broadcast transmitters and kits come from England’s NRG Kits, which is a little outside the FCC’s jurisdiction.
Outfits like Ramsey are particularly vulnerable since they already make and sell FCC-inspected equipment, and so rely on continued cooperation with the Commission for their business. Apparently the FCC took that relationship and Ramsey’s record of compliance on other matters into account when it reduced the fine from $7000 per model to $3000.
Nevertheless it’s too bad to see one reliable source of FM microbroadcasting gear get taken out of the market.