contact utility

How to contact your utility to report a problem

So, you have a power line noise problem, and hopefully you’ve identified specific poles, or least least the general area that the noise is coming from.  And now you’d like to contact the utility.

Before you actually do that, I would suggest several things:

1) If you’re hearing the noise at home, at a time when the noise is bad, plug your rig into a battery (or plug your power supply into a computer UPS), and go flip the MAIN breaker in your house.  Yes, really.  (Don’t do so when the xYL is cooking dinner, though ;-).  Even better, have someone else flip the breaker, and you watch the radio, to make sure the noise level doesn’t change.  It might be very unlikely that the problem is really in your house, but it is best to make sure, and this will also allow you to guarantee to the utility that the noise doesn’t originate from your house.  Then go reset all your clocks…

2) If you haven’t done so already, read the ARRL Power Line Noise FAQ.  If you have read it, read it again.  Yes, it is long.  It is also full of very important information.  Follow the steps they suggest, particularly when it comes to contacting the utility.

3) Make a folder in your email software, and/or a document folder on your computer, just to hold emails/files for this issue.  Also, make a LOG file — log.txt or RFI-LOG.DOC, whatever, and in it, keep a line (incl. date/time) of EVERY contact you have related to your problem — phone, email, letter.

4) If you’re in a bad mood, wait until you get over it.  Don’t be a hothead when you contact the utility.  Yes, you can afford to wait an hour or a day…  believe me, you’ll probably be doing a whole lot more waiting…

OK, so you’ve done all that.  NOW, you can contact the utility.  You might call the first time;  be very nice, respectful, etc.  The helpdesk person isn’t your enemy — it isn’t his/her fault that the pole is noisy.  Don’t try to be overly technical — the person on the phone won’t know or care.  Get a problem ticket #, see if they’ll give you a date, and then LOG it and wait.

If they partly fix the problem, thank them for doing so, and then inform them that it isn’t completely fixed.  Again, do as much locating yourself as you can.

If things aren’t getting done, you might find that letters work better.  Emails might be a good second step, if you can get the email address of the “right” person.  I have ended up writing hardcopy letters — two copies — one to the CEO, one to the maintenance manager — and the one to the CEO goes “certified”.  If nothing else, it should get their attention.  Always, always, be polite, gracious, helpful, and yes, you can be firm, too.  Make sure to thank them if they have somehow managed to fix one of the noise sources.

If they are clueless, send them some info, such as the ARRL info, the Radar Engineers web site, or refer them to RFI Services.  If you can find the problem for them (yes, I know it is their responsibility), you’ll have taken a big step in getting it fixed.  You are probably better at finding than they are, and they should be more adept at fixing it — if you can get them to really try, of course.

If you’re getting nowhere, follow the complaint process at the ARRL Power Line Noise FAQ page — and note that in each step, they assume it gets fixed, UNLESS you tell them otherwise. (Their wording: Should you fail to contact the ARRL at any time during or after this step, your case may incorrectly be assumed to have been resolved.) The ARRL is helpful, but it will not be a fast process.  You’ll need much patience, and then you’ll need more patience.  But also be appropriately persistent, and maybe, just maybe, something will get done.  Don’t give up!

One other option is to contact your state’s public utility office.  In Texas, it is the Public Utility Commission.  I’ve used the Texas PUC complaint form twice, and it seems to get a much faster response than the ARRL/FCC process brings!