Diamond Springs ham radio operator talks himself into $25,000 fine

By Ed Fletcher

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday affirmed an earlier decision to fine a Diamond Springs amateur radio operator $25,000 for “intentionally causing interference to other amateur radio operators and transmitting prohibited communications.”

William “Bill” Crowell, a non-practicing attorney, has continued his deliberate interruptions after his behavior was flagged by the commission. Crowell has argued that his actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Crowell has made a practice of “jamming” a thrice-weekly amateur radio meet-up organized by the Western Amateur Radio Friendship Association. Association members says his attacks and disruptions are racist and crude. Interruptions from user W6WBJ and suspected followers have continued for months.

Unlike a telephone conference call, only one transmission can be heard at a time on a given frequency available to ham radio users. Ham users generally follow a common etiquette for sharing the limited number of frequencies available to them.

“Deliberate interference undermines the utility of the Amateur Radio Service by preventing communications among licensed users who comply with the Commission’s Rules,” writes Charles Cooper, field director of the enforcement bureau in an Aug. 2 letter.

Crowell has been battling the commission since 2006, when it first tried to deny a renewal of his amateur radio license.

“After reviewing Mr. Crowell’s arguments, we find no reason to cancel, withdraw, or reduce the forfeiture penalty,” the commission concluded.

Crowell will have 30 days to pay the fine before the matter is turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice.