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November 5, 2019

Feds admit radios interfere with garage door openers

Photo/Google Earth
The Warrenton Training Center’s 346-acre Station B stands on View Tree Mountain at the northwest edge of town.
Some users of garage door openers have experienced varying levels of inoperability that has been attributed to interference caused by the (Warrenton Training Center’s) new radios.
— Warrenton Training Center
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A top-secret and secure federal government facility just northwest of Warrenton admitted Tuesday that it may be responsible for crippling dozens of garage door openers in two nearby subdivisions.

More than 70 Olde Gold Cup and Silver Cup Estates homeowners have reported that openers started to fail about two weeks ago, according to Betty Compton, Olde Gold Cup’s Neighborhood Watch group coordinator.

The disturbance has affected more than 60 of Olde Gold Cup’s 214 homeowners. About nine of Silver Cup Estates’ 55 homeowners complained of malfunctioning door openers.

Some pointed fingers at Warrenton Training Center Station B along Bear Wallow Road, suggesting its activities somehow have interfered with the use of their garage doors.

Rarely commenting on its activities, the training center addressed their concerns in a three-paragraph statement.

“To address homeland defense needs and comply with government direction that agencies use the electromagnetic spectrum more efficiently, the Department of Defense (DoD) is deploying new land mobile radios to installation across the country,” the statement reads.

The radios “operate in the same frequency range . . . as many unlicensed, low-powered garage door openers, which have operated in this range for years,” the training center said.

Authorized to use that frequency range for “several decades,” the defense department’s deployment of land mobile radios “is relatively new,” according to the training center.

As a result, “some users of garage door openers have experienced varying levels of inoperability that has been attributed to interference caused by the new radios.”

Garage door openers “operate as unlicensed devises, they must accept any interference from authorized spectrum users.”

The training center recently conducted a two-week test of its new radio system that apparently has coincided with the garage openers problems experienced by Olde Gold Cup and Silver Cup Estates homeowners.

To appease affected homeowners, the training center as of Tuesday, Nov. 5, will suspend use of its radio system for 30 days.

That will give homeowners a chance to “update their equipment to operate within the RF (radio frequency) spectrum guidelines,” the training center said. “After the 30-day window, DoD will re-able the new radio system permanently.”

A training center public affairs representative, who provided only his first name, contacted Fauquier Now about the prepared statement.

In a phone call Tuesday afternoon, Brandon asked to FAX the statement to Fauquier Now.

Unable to accept FAX’s, Fauquier Now asked him to email the document. After Brandon rejected the offer, a Fauquier Now reporter agreed to meet him at the facility’s visitors center off Bear Wallow Road to receive the document.

During the brief meeting at the training center, Brandon and the facility’s “commander,” who identified himself as Mitch, refused to comment on the statement — after which they left the visitor center in a large, black SUV.

In interviews last week, two Olde Gold Cup residents plagued by failing openers said they believe someone should compensate them for losses related to replacing their devices and/or systems.

The training center statement made no reference offsetting neighbors’ costs.

The Olde Gold Cup homeowners’ association will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Warrenton Police Department at 333 Carriage House Lane. A police department member will attend. The training center will not send at representative, Mitch said.

The Department of Defense in 2005 first acknowledged radio interference with garage door openers elsewhere.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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Jim Griffin · November 10, 2019 at 10:41 am
LW: Agreed, Nat'l Sec more important, which is my point: If their transmitters are interfering with our garage doors, then our garage door opener transmitters are also interfering with their new mobile radios.

Their radios are more important.

This potential is nationwide (actually, worldwide) and on-going so long as there exist garage door openers that are not updated. In the interests of nat'l sec, we'd all be better off if they'd chosen a better frequency from the beginning, one with no cross-over with common home appliances.
Linda Ward · November 9, 2019 at 8:20 am
"Garage door openers “operate as unlicensed devises, they must accept any interference from authorized spectrum users.” I would go to the manufacturer or installer and ask them for a replacement if possible to what is suggested by R Anderson.

Jim Griffin - I'll take National Security over what's in my garage, if anyone wants my trash or 15 year old lawn mower they can have it. We lock our interior door to the house from the garage, so any access to the house from the garage is not any easier then from the front door.
Jay U · November 6, 2019 at 1:30 pm
I live in Waterloo North and we have the same issue, so I am sure there are more homes that are affected. It is bad enough that we have to hear the fans from the new data centers, and I think that they have only installed half of the data centers.
R Anderson · November 6, 2019 at 12:53 pm
Notably lacking in some critical information, to be expected given the players. A little Internet research brings up public information regarding DoD Land Mobile Radios operating in the 380-400MHz frequency range that have been cited as causing interference with the 390MHz frequency used by many garage door controllers. Chamberlain, Genie, etc. offer models that operate at 315MHz and perhaps other frequencies that would not be susceptible to interference. Some conversion kits are also available.
Jim Griffin · November 6, 2019 at 10:08 am
1. Executed properly, radio spectrum can be shared. Exclusivity not required.

2. To the degree it matters, if you require exclusive spectrum use, don't choose frequencies shared with garage door openers or other common household appliances. Feds should admit the mistake and reset their frequency use. Wherever the feds bring these new radios, garage door trouble will follow.

3. Good news: Garage door openers are weak short-range transmitters. Over time (many years), use will shift to more modern, common near field communications like wifi, bluetooth and others.

4. For now, it is comical: If your garage door stops working, the feds are tailing you or working in your area. What should be stealthy will be on full display, which is somewhat comical, until it really matters, which is where comedy ends and blame begins, like now.

5. Expecting 30-day voluntary compliance is not realistic, especially where national security is potentially a factor.
CalHickey · November 5, 2019 at 8:55 pm
Well, get used to it, because as wireless devices continue to proliferate into every corner of our lives (and our houses) you're going to experience more and more of these episodes. Sometimes it will be accidental, as in the situation with WTC. But, increasingly there will be deliberate and malicious penetrations into the "Network of Things." Forewarned is forearmed.
Sally Murray · November 5, 2019 at 7:26 pm
Many neighborhoods in addition to Old Gold Cup and Silver Cup are affected. We live in Bethel Academy. Our garage door openers failed at the same time as those mentioned in the article.
CalHickey · November 5, 2019 at 7:00 pm
We don't live in Old Gold Cup or Silver Cup Estates, but more than a mile away on a hill with a clear view of WTC Station B. Our garage door opener was installed in 2003 and after years of dependable service began acting up at the same time as those in the affected subdivisions. Furthermore, our garage door faces directly toward WTC, affording little shielding from RFI generated by these radios. In all likelihood the new radios operating at WTC are very likely line-of-sight transmitters operating above 30MHz. That said, anyone in a house with a clear view of WTC out to an unknown distance (greater than the affected subdivisions) who has experienced similar problems with their garage door openers now has a very likely explanation.
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