Garage door remotes fail across country; U.S. military to blame
And no, this isn’t a conspiracy theory.
Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM
The latest in a spate of failing automatic garage door openers is currently taking place in Augusta, Ga., wherenearly 500 residents have contacted the Overhead Door Co. with complaints about garage doors that won't respond to the push of a button.
What kind of high-tech hijinks is forcing the fine people of Augusta to manually open and close the doors themselves?
As it turns out, a new radio system being installed at the nearby military base is to blame.
The garage door Armageddon started last week when Fort Gordon upgraded its land-mobile radios to a 390-megahertz bandwidth to enhance emergency calls. It's the same frequency used in automatic garage door remotes, reports The August Chronicle. And remotes as far as 15 miles from Fort Gordon are experiencing jamming.
Garage door remotes, baby monitors and cordless phones all legally use lower-level radio frequencies, but in actuality, they’re only "borrowing" the space. The U.S. military, the authorized operator of these frequencies, uses the frequencies to assist police, firefighters and paramedics in responding to emergencies.
To be blunt, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn't really care if your garage door remote doesn't work. Under the agency's guidelines, owners of consumer gadgets that rely on such frequencies are considered “unlicensed users” and must yield to military operations.
This hasn’t been a problem in the past, but as the Department of Defense has revamped its radio networks, garage-door remotes have become incapacitated across the country. Military communities in Connecticut, Texas, Florida, California and elsewhere have suffered similar fates.
And in fact, it could be an epidemic. The Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association estimates that up to 40 million U.S. homeowners with garage remotes may be susceptible to interference from land-mobile radio systems. They note that the FCC requires garage door openers to carry a disclaimer that says, "This device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation."
"If you're interfering with us, you have to cease and desist," said Col. Russell Miller, Commander of the 96th Communications Group at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which also experienced misbehaving remotes. "It's not like the government can move."
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