The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action against a Brooklyn resident who was using a Bitcoin miner because the machine was interfering with T-Mobile’s 700 MHz LTE network in the city. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel commented on the incident in a Tweet:
Okay, this @FCC letter has it all: #bitcoin mining, computing power needed for #blockchain computation and #wireless #broadband interference. It all seems so very 2018. https://t.co/EaXxmBAMXH
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) February 15, 2018
New York City resident Victor Rosario was issued a Notification of Harmful Interference and was ordered to turn off his Antminer S5 Bitcoin Miner after the FCC discovered that it was interfering with T-Mobile’s wireless network. “On November 30, 2017, in response to the complaint agents from the Enforcement Bureau’s New York Office confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio emissions in the 700 MHz band were emanating from your residence in Brooklyn, New York,” the FCC wrote in a complaint posted to its site.
“When the interfering device was turned off the interference ceased. You identified the device as an Antminer S5 Bitcoin Miner. The device was generating spurious emissions on frequencies assigned to T-Mobile’s broadband network and causing harmful interference.”
The FCC warned Rosario that continued use of the device — and therefore further interference with T-Mobile’s network — would be a violation of federal laws, and “could subject the operator to severe penalties, including, but not limited to, substantial monetary fines, in rem arrest action to seize the offending radio equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.”
Agency rules require operators of radio frequency devices to cease operating a device after receiving this type of notification. “Operation shall not resume until the condition causing the harmful interference has been corrected,” the FCC said.
What isn’t clear is why the Antminer S5 Bitcoin Miner was generating 700MHz radio emissions — a hardware design flaw or after-market modifications made by the user could potentially be the cause. The Notification of Harmful Interference is specific to Rosario’s device, “not its brand or model and is not meant to suggest or find that all Antminer S5 devices are noncompliant,” the notification said in a footnote.
The FCC is still researching the issue, with the agency asking Rosario to answer several questions about the device and where he purchased it, asking Rosario specifically to “provide the following information on the device: Manufacturer, Model, Serial Number, and if there is any FCC labelling identification.”
Wireless carriers like T-Mobile have always attempted to protect their networks from interference. In 2016 AT&T said that its wireless network was suffering from interference generated by a range of electronics operations, including large-scale video displays, industrial lighting systems, LED lights, and FM radio stations. These interference situations could happen more frequently and become more complex as more devices are connected to wireless networks, and wireless networks span more and more frequency bands. T-Mobile is also facing a federal lawsuit for allowing hackers to steal users’ cryptocurrencies.