Given how heavily regulated the radio spectrum is, are you breaking the law if you listen to music from your iPhone while it’s connected to personal FM transmitter ?

Radio broadcasts are heavily regulated around the world, and in the US FCC bears this responsibility.

In theory, any device bearing this label is legal both in terms of its manufacture and its use. However, the problem is a bit more complex than this. It is extremely unlikely that you will ever «get into trouble» and buy and use a device that breaks or breaks the rules, but the fact is that many transmitters either flirt or outright violate FCC rules.

FM transmitters and FCC rules

In the United States, the portion of the radio spectrum between 87.9 and 107.9 MHz is dedicated to FM broadcasting.

The purpose of the FCC rules is to prevent an electronic device from picking up junk interference that could potentially interfere with radio, television, and other official uses of the radio frequency spectrum. There are certain limits on how much interference a device can cause, and devices that comply with applicable regulations may be labeled with the FCC mark.

If a personal FM transmitter complies with the FCC FM guidelines, it will have » FCC Declaration of Conformity ” which states that this device has been tested and found to comply with FCC RF exposure limits. Here is the declaration:

“This device complies with Part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.

However, even if you buy an approved FM transmitter, there is no guarantee that this is true. According to a study by NPR Labs, about thirty percent of the transmitters they observed in the wild exceeded FCC broadcast power limits. In fact, NPR has been fighting for a long time to stop companies from making and selling high-powered FM transmitters.

Random pirate or innocent consumer

Penalties for the production and sale of heavy duty FM transmitters are extremely high, but they apply to the producer, not the consumer. It is highly unlikely, given the number of FM transmitters and the mobile nature of their use in your car, that the FCC would have the resources or ability to track you even if they care. Operating a stationary, powerful transmitter is what can lead to problems.

However, tuning your FM transmitter to an empty frequency is good for you and your colleagues. Your music will sound much better, will not suffer from interference, and the guy in the car next to you will not have to listen to how he turns on and off, while he tries to listen to NPR. Some transmitters can automatically scan for an empty frequency, and there are also a few different steps you can take to improve your FM transmitter performance, even if your device lacks this type of functionality.

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