News Article | February 15, 2017
DuPont Clean Technologies (DuPont) announces that China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) has awarded DuPont the license and engineering contract for its STRATCO® Alkylation Technology. The new unit is to be located at the existing Sinopec Tianjin Company (TPCC) refinery in the Tianjin Binhai New Area district. The addition of the STRATCO® sulfuric acid alkylation unit will improve the quality of the existing refinery gasoline pool to ensure compliance with the China V standard. Designed by DuPont, the STRATCO® alkylation technology is the established global leader in the industry with over 90 units licensed worldwide and more than 850,000 BPSD (33,300 kmta) of installed capacity. For more than 80 years, the STRATCO® technology has helped refineries safely produce cleaner-burning fuel with high octane, low Rvp, low sulfur and zero olefins. Construction of the new 7,700-bpsd (300-kmta) alkylation unit is expected to begin in early 2017 with TPCC aiming for start-up by late 2017 or early 2018. TPCC is the largest oil refiner in North China with primary crude oil processing capacity of 15.5 million tons per year. The STRATCO® alkylation unit will be designed to meet TPCC’s requirements and will include the latest innovations from DuPont, which provide superior product quality, reduced catalyst consumption and reduced utility requirements. Along with the license and engineering package, DuPont also will provide proprietary equipment and operator training/commissioning assistance for the alkylation unit. Kevin Bockwinkel, global business manager for the STRATCO® alkylation technology said, “We look forward to working with Sinopec and TPCC and enhancing our strong relationship with the addition of a STRATCO® alkylation unit at Tianjin. The new unit will enable the refinery to produce clean fuel safely and reliably while improving the overall gasoline pool quality. We have STRATCO® alkylation units operating at almost 100 locations around the world – with some in operation since the 1940s, so we value Sinopec’s commitment to utilizing best-in-class technology.” The STRATCO® alkylation technology is licensed and marketed by DuPont as part of its Clean Technologies portfolio in Overland Park, Kan. DuPont is committed to alkylation research and has extensive experience in assisting refiners with alkylation design, start-ups, test runs, troubleshooting, optimization, revamps, expansions, analytical testing, operator training, turnarounds and HAZOP studies. The STRATCO® Contactor™ reactor is the key to the technology’s superior product quality, reliability and operability. DuPont continuously produces improvements in the design of the Contactor™ reactor with the most recent being the patented XP2 technology. The DuPont Clean Technologies division applies real-world experience, history of innovation, problem-solving success, and strong brands to help organizations operate safely and with the highest level of performance, reliability, energy efficiency and environmental integrity. The Clean Technologies portfolio includes STRATCO® alkylation technology for production of clean, high-octane gasoline; IsoTherming® hydroprocessing technology for desulfurization of motor fuels; MECS® sulfuric acid production and regeneration technologies; BELCO® air quality control systems for FCC flue gas scrubbing, other refinery scrubbing applications and marine exhaust gas scrubbing; MECS® DynaWave® technology for sulfur recovery and tail gas-treating solutions; and a comprehensive suite of aftermarket service and solutions offerings. Learn more about DuPont Clean Technologies at http://www.cleantechnologies.dupont.com. DuPont (NYSE: DD) has been bringing world-class science and engineering to the global marketplace in the form of innovative products, materials and services since 1802. The company believes that by collaborating with customers, governments, NGOs and thought leaders we can help find solutions to such global challenges as providing enough healthy food for people everywhere, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and protecting life and the environment. For additional information about DuPont and its commitment to inclusive innovation, please visit http://www.dupont.com. The DuPont Oval Logo, DuPont™ and all products denoted with ® or ™ are registered trademarks or trademarks of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company or its affiliates.
News Article | March 2, 2017
The Company reported net sales of $5.1 million for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2016 ("Q4 2016"), up 191% from $1.8 million for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2015 ("Q4 2015"). Zoom reported a net loss of $990 thousand or $0.07 per share for Q4 2016 compared to a net loss of $724 thousand or $0.05 per share for Q4 2015. Gross profit was $1.4 million or 27.3% of net sales in Q4 2016, compared to $0.5 million or 27.8% of net sales in Q4 2015. The increase in gross profit in Q4 2016 was due to increased sales, particularly for Motorola brand cable modems and gateways. Gross margin percentage declined because of a $171 thousand write-down of inventory for select products due to negotiation of lower costs for those products. Operating expenses were $2.3 million, or 45.5% of net sales in Q4 2016, compared to $1.2 million or 67.9% of net sales in Q4 2015. Selling expenses increased $1.3 million to $1.7 million from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016 due primarily to Motorola trademark costs, new in 2016, and increased advertising expenses. General and administrative expenses decreased $114 thousand to $305 thousand from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016 due primarily to reduced FCC-related legal expenses and reduced personnel and stock option costs. Research and development expenses decreased $56 thousand to $368 thousand from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016 due primarily to reductions in testing and certification expenses. Zoom's net sales of $17.8 million for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016 ("FY 2016") were up 65.3% from $10.8 million for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015 ("FY 2015"). Zoom reported a net loss of $2.9 million or $0.21 per share for FY 2016 compared to a net loss of $833 thousand or $0.09 per share for FY 2015. Gross profit was $5.4 million for FY 2016, up $2.0 million from $3.4 million for FY 2015. Gross margin was down slightly to 30.1% in FY 2016 from 31.5% in FY 2015 due primarily to increased amortization of certification costs associated with new products. Operating expenses were $8.3 million, or 46.3% of net sales in FY 2016, up from $4.1 million or 38.4% of net sales in FY 2015. Selling expenses increased $3.6 million to $5.2 million from FY 2015 to FY 2016 due primarily to Motorola trademark costs and increased advertising expenses. General and administrative expenses increased $312 thousand to $1.5 million from FY 2015 to FY 2016, primarily due to increased personnel and stock option costs, and increased audit and legal expenses. Research and development expenses increased $180 thousand to $1.5 million from FY 2015 to FY 2016, primarily due to increased personnel costs. Zoom raised gross proceeds of approximately $1.6 million in a private placement of common stock in October 2016. On December 31, 2016 Zoom had $1.3 million drawn on a $3 million line of bank credit, working capital of $3.4 million, and a current ratio of 1.7. "We are pleased with the sales growth we are experiencing due to our line of high-performance Motorola brand cable modems, strong customer reviews for these products, and significant advertising," said Frank Manning, Zoom's President and CEO. "During 2016 we dramatically grew our share of cable modem sales through Amazon, and Amazon remains a major focus. Another focus is growing our shelf space in the best retail stores, and we're very pleased that in February 2017 we shipped our third Motorola cable modem product to Best Buy stores. We continue to develop exciting new cable modem products, including our first product for the new DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem standard. In January 2017 our China master distributor began selling our first Motorola router for China. In 2017 we plan to introduce a line of routers, range extenders, and powerline communication adapters consistent with our worldwide Motorola licensing agreement for cable modems and gateways, WiFi routers, range extenders, and other consumer network products. Besides introducing new cable modem and WiFi products, we expect to launch some innovative sensor products later this year. Our focus will remain on growing our sales while trying to reduce our expenses as a percentage of sales. We are proud of our accomplishments in 2016, and looking forward to continued growth in 2017." Conference Call Zoom has scheduled a conference call for Thursday, March 2nd at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You may access the conference call by dialing (877) 706-2128 if you are in the USA, and international callers may dial (706) 643-5255. The conference ID is 75356610. A slide presentation will accompany management's remarks and may be accessed five minutes before the conference call at www.zoomtel.com/s4. Shortly after the conference call a recording of the call will be available on Zoom's website at www.zoomtel.com/r4. Founded in 1977 in Boston, Zoom Telephonics, Inc. designs, produces, markets, and supports cable modems and other communication products. For more information about Zoom and its products, please see www.zoomtel.com. MOTOROLA and the Stylized M Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Motorola Trademark Holdings, LLC and are used under license. This release contains forward-looking information relating to Zoom's plans, expectations, and intentions. Actual results may be materially different from expectations as a result of known and unknown risks, including: the potential need for additional funding which Zoom may be unable to obtain; declining demand for certain of Zoom's products; delays, unanticipated costs, interruptions or other uncertainties associated with Zoom's production and shipping; Zoom's reliance on several key outsourcing partners; uncertainty of key customers' plans and orders; risks relating to product certifications; Zoom's dependence on key employees; uncertainty of new product development, including budget overruns, project delays, and the risk that newly introduced products may contain undetected errors or defects or otherwise not perform as anticipated; costs and senior management distractions due to patent-related matters; and other risks set forth in Zoom's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Zoom cautions readers not to place undue reliance upon any such forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date made. Zoom expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any such statements to reflect any change in Zoom's expectations or any change in events, conditions or circumstance on which any such statement is based.
News Article | February 11, 2017
The Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) - believed to be the successor of the Galaxy J7 (2016) - has been spotted on a benchmarking site yet again. However, this time round, it is the U.S. variant of the Samsung smartphone which has appeared on GFXBench. Earlier in February, the Galaxy J7 (2017) bearing the model number SM-J727A leaked on GFXBench, but now it is the turn of the SM-J727VL which is believed to be the U.S. variant of the handset. The smartphone has also been spotted on Geekbench in the past, offering a peek into the specs of the rumored handset. The SM-J727A which leaked previously is said to be the international variant of the Galaxy J7 (2017) as it housed an Exynos 7870 processor. The SM-J727VL, on the other hand, is likely the U.S variant as it houses a different CPU. The specs of the model which were revealed on GFXBench points to a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. Under the hood, the smartphone houses a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor clocked at 1.4 GHz. The device will likely boast 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. As for the graphics, the smartphone may come with the Adreno 308 GPU. The handsets will likely have an 8MP front-facing camera, as well as a 5MP secondary snapper. The rear camera may have added features like autofocus, face detection and touch focus. The primary camera will be able to record full HD videos as well. The secondary camera will likely be also record FHD video. The device will possibly come with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which is a departure from the Android 7.0 Nougat rumored for the international variant of the handset. The Snapdragon processor in place of the Exynos 7870 is the only major difference between the two variants. The smartphone has already received FCC certification, which suggests that it will release soon. Previous leaks have also hinted that the smartphone may be making its way to the U.S. carrier AT&T. Noted leakster Evan Blass has let on that the Galaxy J7 (2017) will also be retailed by Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular. A recent report also suggested that the Galaxy J7 may also be sold as the Galaxy Sky Pro in the U.S. market. Samsung has a press event slated for Feb. 26 and it is believed that the company may introduce the Galaxy J7 (2017) at the MWC. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 23, 2017
COVINGTON, La., Feb. 23, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Globalstar, Inc. (NYSE MKT:GSAT) today announced financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2016. Jay Monroe, Chairman and CEO of Globalstar, commented, “During 2016, we reached one of the most significant milestones in Globalstar's history when the FCC adopted a Report and Order that will enable us to provide terrestrial authority over our 11.5 MHz of licensed 2.4 GHz spectrum. Obtaining this Report and Order was a long and difficult process, and we thank all participants that helped bring it to a successful conclusion. We are now aggressively pursuing similar terrestrial authority in numerous international jurisdictions." Mr. Monroe continued, “2016 was also a pivotal year for our core MSS business as we completed the multi-year process of upgrading our gateways with second-generation infrastructure together with our partners at Hughes and Ericsson. With these enhancements, we will be able to support products with faster data speeds, improved performance and expanded applications. We also showed meaningful financial growth with a 7% increase in total revenue as we continue to grow our subscriber base and improve ARPU. Service revenue, up 12% during 2016, contributed meaningfully to the improvement in our operating margin. While net income decreased from 2015 due to a non-cash derivative valuation gain recorded during 2015 compared to a loss during 2016, Adjusted EBITDA improved significantly, up 46% during 2016. This increase was driven by the Company’s ability to leverage higher service revenue with a near constant operating cost base." Total revenue for the fourth quarter of 2016 increased by $1.6 million, or 7%, from the fourth quarter of 2015. This increase was driven primarily by higher service revenue reflecting increased ARPU across all types of services. This increase in service revenue was offset partially by a decrease in revenue generated from subscriber equipment sales due primarily to the Company selling fewer Simplex units during the three months ended December 31, 2016. Service revenue increased $2.6 million, or 14%, in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the fourth quarter of 2015. This increase was driven primarily by growth in Duplex and SPOT service revenue, which increased $1.3 million and $1.1 million, respectively. Higher Duplex ARPU, resulting from price increases as well as increased revenue from annual, usage-based plans, was the primary driver of the increase in Duplex service revenue. The Company raised prices for certain legacy rate plans during 2016 to align these rates with current service plan offerings. Additionally, over the past several quarters a higher percentage of new subscribers have selected annual, usage-based plans, which frequently results in the deferral of revenue for unused minutes until the anniversary date of these customers' contracts. The increase in SPOT service revenue was propelled by growth in ARPU due primarily to rate plan increases and in average subscribers due to higher activations. Also contributing to the increase in service revenue was Simplex service revenue, which was up $0.5 million, offset partially by a decrease in other service revenue of $0.3 million. These fluctuations were due primarily to a reclassification of activation fees during 2016. Subscriber equipment sales revenue declined $1.0 million to $3.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 from $4.0 million the fourth quarter of 2015 due primarily to a $0.7 million decrease in Simplex equipment sales revenue. This decrease was driven primarily by a decline in the number of Simplex units sold reflecting the downturn in the oil and gas industry, which has negatively impacted the Simplex business due to the concentration of customers operating in this industry. Also contributing to the total decline in subscriber equipment sales revenue was a decrease of $0.2 million in Duplex equipment sales revenue. During 2015, the Company launched a successful sales promotion and reduced the selling price of Duplex handsets, resulting in an increase in demand and a higher volume of units sold in 2015. Loss from operations increased $0.9 million, or 6%, from $16.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to $15.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. This increase was due to a $2.5 million increase in operating expenses driven primarily by higher non-cash compensation of $1.0 million, offset partially by a $1.6 million increase in total revenue for reasons previously discussed. Net loss was $117.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to net loss of $26.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2015. This increase resulted primarily from higher non-cash derivative losses of $90.1 million. This fluctuation resulted primarily from changes in certain valuation inputs during the respective periods, including stock price, stock price volatility, discount rate and remaining estimated term of the instruments. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarters ended December 31, 2016 and 2015 was $5.1 million and $4.6 million, respectively. This 11% increase in Adjusted EBITDA was due to a $1.6 million increase in revenue offset partially by a $1.1 million increase in expenses (excluding EBITDA adjustments). The increase in expenses during the fourth quarter of 2016 resulted primarily from higher cost of services and management, general and administrative (MG&A) expenses, offset partially by lower cost of subscriber equipment sales. The $0.6 million increase in cost of services was due to higher maintenance costs of $0.4 million to support the second-generation ground network as the Company accepted the work performed to upgrade its gateways during the fourth quarter 2016. The $0.8 million increase in MG&A expenses resulted primarily from efforts to support continued product sales, including commissions and advertising, as well as higher personnel costs as the Company expanded its management and global sales teams in early 2016. The $0.3 million decrease in cost of subscriber equipment sales was due to a lower volume of Simplex and Duplex units sold in the fourth quarter of 2016. Total revenue increased $6.4 million, or 7%, to $96.9 million during 2016. This increase was due to higher service revenue of $9.0 million driven by growth in average subscriber base and increases in ARPU across all core revenue streams. Successful sales promotions for Duplex and SPOT products contributed meaningfully to average subscriber growth of 5% and 7%, respectively, from 2015 to 2016. Higher Duplex and SPOT ARPU, which drove over half of the increase in total service revenue, was due to new subscribers joining the network at higher rates than current ARPU levels as well as rate plan increases for legacy subscribers. The increase in service revenue was offset partially by a $2.6 million decrease in revenue from subscriber equipment sales resulting primarily from a lower volume of Simplex and Duplex units sold during 2016. Loss from operations decreased $2.9 million, or 4%, during 2016 due to a $6.4 million increase in total revenue offset partially by a $3.5 million increase in operating expenses. This 2% increase in operating expenses was driven primarily by non-cash items, including $1.9 million higher non-cash compensation and a $1.1 million legal settlement paid in common stock. Net loss was $132.6 million for 2016 compared to net income of $72.3 million for 2015 due primarily to the fluctuation in derivative liabilities during the respective periods. The Company recorded a derivative gain of $181.9 million in 2015 compared to a derivative loss of $41.5 million in 2016. Adjusted EBITDA increased 46% to $20.5 million during 2016 from $14.1 million in 2015. The increase was driven primarily by a $6.4 million increase in total revenue (for reasons previously discussed) as 2016 operating expenses (excluding EBITDA adjustments) were relatively flat compared to the prior year. The Company will conduct an investor conference call on February 23, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. ET to discuss the 2016 fourth quarter and annual financial results. About Globalstar, Inc. Globalstar is a leading provider of mobile satellite voice and data services. Customers around the world in industries such as government, emergency management, marine, logging, oil & gas and outdoor recreation rely on Globalstar to conduct business smarter and faster, maintain peace of mind and access emergency personnel. Globalstar data solutions are ideal for various asset and personal tracking, data monitoring, SCADA and IoT applications. The Company's products include mobile and fixed satellite telephones, the innovative Sat-Fi satellite hotspot, Simplex and Duplex satellite data modems, tracking devices and flexible service packages. Note that all SPOT products described in this press release are the products of SPOT LLC, a subsidiary of Globalstar, which is not affiliated in any manner with Spot Image of Toulouse, France or Spot Image Corporation of Chantilly, Virginia. Safe Harbor Language for Globalstar Releases This press release contains certain statements that are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties which may cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements, such as the statements regarding our expectations with respect to actions by the FCC, future increases in our revenue and profitability and other statements contained in this release regarding matters that are not historical facts, involve predictions. Any forward-looking statements made in this press release are believed to be accurate as of the date made and are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results or developments may differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements, and we undertake no obligation to update any such statements. Additional information on factors that could influence our financial results is included in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Pres. Donald Trump’s appointment last week of Ajit Pai as Federal Communications Commission chairman has triggered fears that the short-lived “net neutrality” era will soon come to an end. Many believe Pai’s track record as an FCC commissioner over the past five years suggests he will try to reverse the commission’s past decisions to closely regulate internet service. One of the first regulations on the chopping block is likely to be the 2015 Open Internet Order, which aimed to ensure that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot intentionally slow or block any of the content in their networks—a prohibition that forms the essence of net neutrality. Pai, who was nominated to the FCC by Pres. Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2012, follows the Republican party line that cutting regulations will encourage internet and telecom companies to invest in communications infrastructure and new services. On Friday he circulated a plan to waive for five years FCC enhanced transparency reporting requirements for ISPs with no more than 250,000 subscribers. If passed this would neuter the part of the 2015 ruling that as of last month requires small ISPs to submit information to the agency and consumers about data caps, fees and speeds. The 2015 order had given those businesses a temporary waiver that expired in December—large ISPs still have to provide that info. Public dialogue on net neutrality is often more political than technical—but the technical aspects are crucial to understanding exactly what the Open Internet Order controls, and what it does not. Today’s internet is a lot different than it was even a decade ago, with new complexities that demand a fresh look at how the information coursing through its networks should be managed, regardless of whether this is done by the FCC or the businesses that run those networks. The Open Internet Order originally grew out of concerns that AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other large broadband companies would let big, deep-pocketed content providers like Amazon and Netflix pay for so-called “fast lane” services that enable higher-quality data streaming. Without government intervention, the argument goes, smaller content providers and start-up Web sites would be unable to pay steep fees—and their customers would have to endure slow, glitchy connections. Many also fear that without FCC oversight, broadband service providers might even deliberately block or slow internet services or apps from companies that don’t pay up. The idea that all data should be treated equally dates back to the internet’s early days, when nearly all traffic traveled across the same 12 core networks provided by AT&T and other ISPs. These networks formed what became known as the internet backbone, connecting most Web sites and content providers with AOL, Earthlink and thousands of other consumer access networks that served up Web pages to PC users. The ISPs that owned the core networks exchanged data traffic without charging one another fees—speed and quality of access were limited by the technology’s capabilities, as opposed to business arrangements. The internet landscape, however, has changed dramatically since the days when AOL was bulk-mailing millions of free CDs in a campaign to get people to try the information superhighway. Mergers and acquisitions among ISPs and telecommunications companies consolidated the market, enabling them to offer far more than internet service. Global telecommunications conglomerates such as Comcast and AT&T are now more accurately known as broadband service providers—as opposed to simply ISPs—because they bundle internet access with cable television, phone services and in some cases content they produce themselves. By 2009 fewer than 150 companies (think: Netflix, Google and Facebook) were generating half of all internet traffic, much of it large files carrying video. By May 2014 just 30 companies created more than half of all prime-time internet traffic in the U.S., according to Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, a company that monitors and analyzes internet use. Labovitz provided this information to a 2014 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, convened to scrutinize Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Netflix, Google and other high-volume multimedia content providers have more recently begun to connect directly with the companies—including Comcast and Verizon—that provide broadband service to consumers. This bypasses the internet backbone all together. Netflix, for example, stores a portion of its video on servers (called open connect appliances) co-located within Comcast’s ISP network, which is not part of the internet backbone. This helps speed the delivery of Netflix movies and shows to Comcast customers, because the content does not have to hop from one interconnected network to the next on the public internet. The company’s subscription-video service consumes about one third of all internet bandwidth during peak hours. The Open Internet Order that former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler championed, however, covers only part of the internet. The order forbids broadband providers to try speeding, slowing or blocking internet content once it is on their networks en route to consumers. But the regulation does not cover traffic traveling outside those ISP networks. A 2014 conflict between Netflix and Comcast illustrates the Open Internet Order’s limitations. In February of that year the companies cut a deal under which Netflix could send video directly from its network to Comcast’s, eliminating the need for Netflix’s data to pass through intermediary networks that slow content en route to Comcast subscribers. The problem arose when Comcast, which had to upgrade its network to accommodate the deluge of streaming video traffic, wanted to charge Netflix for access to the content server in Comcast’s network. Netflix balked at the fees—such interconnections in the past have not required payment. Then Netflix began to get complaints from customers who noticed their programs were not streaming as smoothly as they once did. Netflix ultimately agreed to pay, and the poor streaming quality improved. Such disputes between content companies and broadband providers have become more commonplace worldwide in recent years. The misconception that all data pass through the network the same way stems from a concept of the internet as it existed in 1995, when one accessed the Web with a PC and phone line, says Christopher Yoo, a professor of law, communication and information science at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “One of the downsides of network neutrality is it tries to make all data travel in the same way,” Yoo explains. “The reality is that video is different from voice, which is different from e-mail, which is different from Web browsing.” One issue that is related to net neutrality—and is near the top of Pai’s agenda—is what, if anything, to do about so-called “zero rating” data practices. This involves service providers seeking to count certain content against customers’ data caps, but exempting other content. Verizon, for example, does not count the data used by its "NFL Mobile from Verizon" app—which streams bandwidth-hogging live games—against its customers’ monthly data usage. “That doesn’t constitute blocking or degrading, but it does mean favorable relationships between content providers and internet service providers,” says Jim Speta, a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law. “In the absence of any regulation, I think you’ll see a lot more of those types of business arrangements.” Earlier this month the FCC, under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, issued a report suggesting zero rating practices violate the Open Internet Order. He cited AT&T as an example. The “Data Free TV” feature on AT&T’s DIRECTV app lets broadband consumers who also subscribe to direct broadcast satellite service from DIRECTV—an AT&T subsidiary—view unlimited video content. The point here is AT&T could be seen as discriminating against content providers that compete with DIRECTV, because competitors’ video would count against customers’ data caps. Pai, who voted to approve AT&T's 2015 acquisition of DIRECTV, accused Wheeler’s report of “casting doubt on the legality of free data offerings—offerings that are popular among consumers precisely because they allow more access to online music, videos, and other content free of charge.” A Pai-led FCC will likely overturn the Open Internet Order, although that process could take several months to a year. The bigger question is whether the FCC would replace that rule with some other measure, or avoid regulation altogether. “I’m hopeful that the FCC won’t be defanged entirely, and that even without the Open Internet Order the agency will still act against anticompetitive behavior among the large internet companies,” Speta says. Both Speta and Yoo agree that a broader focus on whether companies are competing fairly from one end of the internet to the other would get users much closer to real net neutrality.
News Article | February 22, 2017
BEVERLY, Mass., Feb. 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- ATN (NASDAQ:ATNI) today reported results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2016. Unless otherwise indicated, the discussion of the Company’s results is focused on its continuing operations, and comparisons are to the same period in the prior year. In the first quarter of 2016, the Company changed its segment reporting structure and an unaudited recast of financial information for the eight quarterly periods in the fiscal years ending December 31, 2014 and 2015 can be found in the Company’s Form 8-K filing dated April 12, 2016. “Fourth quarter performance represented a solid finish to a year in which we significantly expanded the scope of ATN’s operations through synergistic acquisitions in telecom services and strategic and organic initiatives in renewable energy,” said Michael Prior, Chief Executive Officer. “Revenue contributions in the fourth quarter from our 2016 telecom acquisitions in Bermuda and U.S. Virgin Islands were consistent with plan, and our first India renewable energy projects, while not generating revenue yet, are set to deliver electricity production in the 2017 first quarter. “We are pleased with the market positioning of our international telecom operations. Revenues have remained steady during the integration of our Bermuda and USVI acquisitions, providing a solid platform for long term development and cash flows. Our early efforts have been focused on improving network performance and delivering service upgrades to ensure a superior customer experience and further strengthen our leading market positions. We will continue to make network investments in all our international markets in 2017, with a significant decline in those capital expenditures expected for 2018. “U.S. wholesale wireless continued to face the effect of lower rates, offset in part by higher retail revenues. The net result was a modest decline in revenues and EBITDA in the fourth quarter compared to last year. This quarter-over-quarter trend is likely to be a factor again in 2017, but the impact should be less pronounced, as rate reductions stabilize and we benefit from additional operating efficiencies. “We were delayed on our build schedule in India due in large part to the government imposed currency reform, but we are moving forward with new construction and anticipate having 50MW operational in the second quarter and potentially twice that by year end. We are exploring financing alternatives on completed projects, which will help determine the pace and extent of our construction of new solar facilities in India for the second half of the year. At present, we still see an attractive opportunity to build more than 250MW of distributed generation projects in India over the next two years. “More broadly, we expect 2017 to be a year of continued progress for ATN. We have a strong and growing base of operating cash flows, which reached approximately $112 million, inclusive of funding a $22 million pension obligation in lieu of purchase consideration paid to the seller for our U.S. Virgin Islands acquisition, for 2016, and significant remaining capacity on our balance sheet. We have recently completed or expect to complete some smaller strategic acquisitions and dispositions which should improve both of those attributes. Our telecom operations consist of a balanced and diversified portfolio of wireless and wireline assets, many of which are in markets where we have significant operating synergies that may be realized over time. Our India solar projects do not rely on government subsidies for economic returns, and while pricing per kWh is lower than in the U.S., we expect our India operations to generate more than $2 million in very high incremental margin revenue in the 2017 fourth quarter and to grow steadily from there,” Mr. Prior concluded. Fourth quarter 2016 revenues were $128.5 million, a 55% increase from the $82.9 million reported for the fourth quarter of 2015. Revenue growth resulted primarily from a $46.5 million, or 122%, increase in our International Telecom segment revenues mostly due to the impact of our recent Bermuda and U.S. Virgin Islands acquisitions. Adjusted EBITDA1 for the fourth quarter was $34.1 million, 33% above the prior year period, primarily from the impact of the recent acquisitions and reduced operating expenses in Guyana and in U.S. Telecom, partially offset by a decline in Renewable Energy operating results. Operating income for the fourth quarter, which included a $10.0 million increase in depreciation and amortization expense primarily due to the recent acquisitions, was $10.9 million, an increase of 33% when compared to the prior year period. Net income attributable to ATN’s stockholders for the fourth quarter was $2.3 million or $0.14 per diluted share, a decline of 44% compared with the prior year period of $4.2 million, or $0.26 per diluted share due to increased depreciation and amortization expense, and higher net interest expense related to the recent acquisitions and investments. Revenues for the full year 2016 were $457.0 million, a 29% increase from the $355.4 million reported for the same period of 2015. Adjusted EBITDA1 for the full year 2016 was $149.0 million, up 7% from the prior year. Operating income of $50.8 million for the full year 2016 declined from the prior year’s $78.6 million due in large part to a $19.1 million increase in depreciation and amortization, a $9.1 million increase in transaction-related expenses associated with the acquisitions in 2016, and an $11.4 million impairment charge in the year. Net income attributable to ATN’s stockholders for the full year 2016 was $12.5 million or $0.77 per diluted share, compared with the prior year $16.9 million, or $1.05 per diluted share. The Company has three reportable segments: (i) U.S. Telecom; (ii) International Telecom; and (iii) Renewable Energy. U.S. Telecom revenues consist of wireless revenues from our voice and data wholesale roaming operations and our smaller retail operations in the Southwestern United States and wireline revenues from our wholesale transport and enterprise business in the Northeastern United States. Total U.S. Telecom segment revenues were $39.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 1% decrease from the $39.3 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2015. U.S. Wireless revenues declined 5% to $30.9 million compared with $32.4 million in the prior year quarter, due mostly to lower wholesale roaming rates, partially offset by growth in data traffic volumes and low margin retail wireless revenues. U.S. Wireline revenues were $7.7 million, up from $6.3 million in the prior year. The Company ended the fourth quarter of 2016 with 1,006 domestic base stations in service compared to 877 at the end of last year’s fourth quarter. U.S. Telecom Adjusted EBITDA1 of $16.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 increased 5% compared to the prior year’s $15.7 million. The increase was primarily due to a reduction in segment operating expenses which offset lower wholesale wireless revenues in the current year quarter. International Telecom consists of a broad range of information and communications services including wireline and wireless data, internet, voice and video service revenues from our operations in Bermuda and the Caribbean including the U.S. Virgin Islands. International Telecom revenues were $84.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 122% increase from the $38.2 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2015. Our recent acquisitions in Bermuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands added $47.3 million of incremental revenues during the current year quarter and were responsible for this increase. International Telecom Adjusted EBITDA1 of $21.1 million in the fourth quarter increased 77% from $11.9 million in the prior year period. The increase is the result of the 2016 acquisitions and lower year over year operating expenses in Guyana. Renewable Energy segment revenues are generated principally by the sale of energy and solar renewable energy credits from our 28 commercial solar projects in the United States. For the fourth quarter of 2016, revenues from our renewable energy business were $4.8 million, down 11% from the $5.4 million in the prior year mostly due to the expiration of certain renewable energy credits in California. Adjusted EBITDA1 for the Renewable Energy segment was $2.8 million in the fourth quarter, a decrease of 27% from the prior year quarter due to the expiration of those credits and increased operating expenses from our new solar business in India prior to generating revenue. The expiry of that credit revenue will lower domestic renewable energy revenue in the coming quarters but both revenue and EBITDA for this segment will benefit as we begin generating revenue from the facilities under construction in India. The construction delays in the fourth quarter of 2016 have pushed back the timeline on the revenue and EBITDA contribution of the new solar facilities in India Cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2016 were $269.7 million. In addition, the Company held $9.2 million of short-term investments and $18.6 million of restricted cash. Net cash provided by operating activities was $111.7 million for the full year of 2016, compared with $139.2 million for the full year of 2015. The decrease in net cash provided by operating activities is due to lower net income in 2016, including the impact of transaction and restructuring charges, the funding of a $22.5 million pension obligation in lieu of purchase consideration paid to the seller for our U.S. Virgin Islands acquisition, and changes in deferred income taxes. Capital expenditures were $124.3 million for the full year 2016, which included $22.6 million spent on renewable energy projects. The Company expects full year 2017 capital expenditures for its Telecom businesses, including the recent Bermuda and USVI acquisitions, to be in the range of $95 million to $115 million. Capital expenditures in the domestic and international telecom segments are higher than what we would expect in the ordinary course due to concurrent network expansions and upgrades in multiple markets. These projects include extensive fiber builds and upgrades and market-wide mobile data network upgrades. Once complete, we expect aggregate capital expenditures in existing telecom markets to decline significantly in 2018. In addition, capital expenditures for our Renewable Energy business are expected to be in the range of $40 million to $60 million for the full year 2017, primarily related to ongoing construction of our solar projects in India. ATN will host a conference call on Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) to discuss its fourth quarter and year ended 2016 results. The call will be hosted by Michael Prior, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Justin Benincasa, Chief Financial Officer. The dial-in numbers are US/Canada: (877) 734-4582 and International: (678) 905-9376, conference ID 70892859. A replay of the call will be available at ir.atni.com beginning at 1:00 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, February 23, 2017. ATN International, Inc. (Nasdaq:ATNI), headquartered in Beverly, Massachusetts, provides telecommunications services to rural, niche and other under-served markets and geographies in the United States, Bermuda and the Caribbean and owns and operates solar power systems in various locations in the United States and India. Through our operating subsidiaries, we (i) provide both wireless and wireline connectivity to residential and business customers, including a range of mobile wireless solutions, high speed internet services, video services and local exchange services, (ii) provide distributed solar electric power to corporate, utility and municipal customers and (iii) are the owner and operator of terrestrial and submarine fiber optic transport systems. For more information, please visit www.atni.com. This press release contains forward-looking statements relating to, among other matters, our future financial performance and results of operations; the competitive environment in our key markets, demand for our services and industry trends; the pace of expansion and improvement of our telecommunications network and renewable energy operations including our level of estimated future capital expenditures and our realization of the benefits of these investments; the anticipated timing of the closing of the sale of our wireline business in the Northeastern United States; the anticipated timing of our build schedule and the commencement of energy production of our India renewable energy projects; and management’s plans and strategy for the future. These forward-looking statements are based on estimates, projections, beliefs, and assumptions and are not guarantees of future events or results. Actual future events and results could differ materially from the events and results indicated in these statements as a result of many factors, including, among others, (1) our ability to operate our newly acquired businesses in Bermuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands and integrate these operations into our existing operations; (2) the general performance of our operations, including operating margins, revenues, and the future growth and retention of our major customers and subscriber base and consumer demand for solar power; (3) government regulation of our businesses, which may impact our FCC and other telecommunications licenses or our renewables business; (4) economic, political and other risks facing our operations; (5) our ability to maintain favorable roaming arrangements; (6) our ability to efficiently and cost-effectively upgrade our networks and IT platforms to address rapid and significant technological changes in the telecommunications industry; (7) the loss of or an inability to recruit skilled personnel in our various jurisdictions, including key members of management; (8) our ability to find investment or acquisition or disposition opportunities that fit our strategic goals for the Company; (9) increased competition; (10) our ability to expand our renewable energy business; (11) our reliance on a limited number of key suppliers and vendors for timely supply of equipment and services relating to our network infrastructure; (12) the adequacy and expansion capabilities of our network capacity and customer service system to support our customer growth; (13) the occurrence of weather events and natural catastrophes; (14) our continued access to capital and credit markets; (15) the risk of currency fluctuation for those markets in which we operate: (16) our ability to realize the value that we believe exists in our businesses; and (17) our ability to receive requisite regulatory consents and approvals and satisfy other conditions needed to complete the pending sale of our wireline business in the Northeastern United States. These and other additional factors that may cause actual future events and results to differ materially from the events and results indicated in the forward-looking statements above are set forth more fully under Item 1A “Risk Factors” of the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2015, filed with the SEC on February 29, 2016 and the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarters ended March 31, 2016, June 30, 2016, and September 30, 2016 filed with the SEC on May 10, 2016, August 9, 2016, and November 10, 2016, respectively, and other reports we file from time to time with the SEC. The Company undertakes no obligation and has no intention to update these forward-looking statements to reflect actual results, changes in assumptions or changes in other factors that may affect such forward-looking statements. Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures In addition to financial measures prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), this press release also contains non-GAAP financial measures. Specifically, ATN has presented an Adjusted EBITDA measure. Adjusted EBITDA is defined as net income attributable to ATN stockholders before income from discontinued operations, bargain purchase gain, impairment of long-lived assets, restructuring charges, interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, transaction-related charges, other income or expense, and net income attributable to non-controlling interests. The Company believes that the inclusion of these non-GAAP financial measures helps investors gain a meaningful understanding of the Company's core operating results and enhances comparing such performance with prior periods. ATN’s management uses these non-GAAP measures, in addition to GAAP financial measures, as the basis for measuring our core operating performance and comparing such performance to that of prior periods. The non-GAAP financial measures included in this press release are not meant to be considered superior to or a substitute for results of operations prepared in accordance with GAAP. Reconciliations of these non-GAAP financial measures used in this press release to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measure is set forth in the text of, and the accompanying tables to, this press release. 1 See Table 5 for reconciliation of Net Income (Loss) to Adjusted EBITDA.
News Article | March 3, 2017
The man who would " dismantle net neutrality with a smile" has another target in his cross hair for March. On Thursday, newly minted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai released the agency's agenda for the month, with six items it will discuss and vote on March 23. At the top of the list is killing robocalls -- those automated phone calls that annoy the entire nation. Pai has been working fast to kill regulation and policies like net neutrality -- the concept that all internet traffic must be treated as equal -- that the previous administration enforced. So far, in a little more than a month, he's stopped rules to protect data privacy, blocked internet privacy regulations and chipped away at net neutrality. In March's agenda, Pai looks to get rid of even more regulations his predecessors put in place. But first, he's looking to kill off an old enemy. Robocalls have become a national scourge, as the No. 1 complaint from consumers to the FCC. Americans receive 2.4 billion robocalls a month, about seven calls per person. The issue has plagued past FCC administrations, with former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler forming the " Robocall Strike Force" with AT&T, Apple, Google and other companies. In Pai's proposal for March, the FCC would give telecommunications companies more power to block spoofed robocalls, when people disguise their phone numbers as another number. Under the FCC's current rules, phone carriers can't do much to block spoofed calls. A majority of robocalls spoof unused numbers that aren't assigned to people, to avoid being detected and blocked. "There is no reason why any legitimate caller should be spoofing an unassigned or invalid phone number," Pai wrote in a Medium post on Thursday. "It's just a way for scammers to evade the law." Ending cellphones in prisons is second on the FCC's agenda for March. Pai already opposed cheap prison phone calls, in a push to reverse his predecessor's actions to put a cap on prison call rates. But cellphones behind bars are even worse, Pai said. In most prisons, cellphones are regarded as contraband, but inmates have been able to sneak in devices, using them to run drug operations, phone scams and order attacks from their cells, Pai said. In Georgia, prison officials took more than 8,300 illegal cellphones in just one year. The FCC will vote on using radio technology to find and block contraband phones in prisons and jails, along with using geo-fencing to disable devices behind bars. Third on the agenda is improving Video Relay Service, the FCC's communications tool for the deaf. The VRS allows deaf people to call others and communicate using sign language, and have it interpreted and translated to voice and back. Pai is looking to improve the service by introducing specialized interpreters that can help with medical or technical cases. Pai also wants to reform cellular service, giving telecommunications providers more flexibility on providing broadband to customers. The vote could pave the way for faster data by letting wireless providers shift traffic from the original radio spectrum to more modern spectrums. Cutting regulations was a big part of Pai's speech this week at Mobile World Congress. He's also looking to get rid of requirements for international telecommunications providers, as the fifth item on the FCC's March agenda. The final item on the FCC's March agenda is a vote on channel sharing. If it passes, it expands the rules on what stations could share the same channel, according to the proposal. The new rules would give "low power TV... more options to stay in business and continue broadcasting essential news and information to the public," Pai wrote in his post. It's Complicated: This is dating in the age of apps. Having fun yet? These stories get to the heart of the matter. Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.
News Article | February 19, 2017
Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under the administration of President Donald Trump, is known as an enemy of net neutrality. However, in a speech that Pai gave to the North American Broadcasters Association, the focus was not on recent communications technology, but rather on an old one. In Pai's remarks, he expressed his desire for smartphone manufacturers to activate the FM chips that are found across most models. According to Pai, 90 percent of Americans under 50 years old have access to a smartphone, which has more computing power than Apollo 11, the spacecraft that sent the first man to the moon. Every week, 93 percent of Americans at 12 years old or older still listen to the radio, a figure that has been consistent over the past couple of decades. Pai then points to the fact that the majority of smartphones in the United States actually contain FM chips in their LTE modems, but are simply not activated. As of the previous fall season, only around 44 percent of the top-selling smartphones in the country have their FM chips activated. "It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don't enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman," Pai said in his speech, and he makes a good point. Pai has been advocating for smartphone makers to activate FM radios for years, and in his speech, he even noted that public safety could be one of the cases that can be made for enabling FM chips in smartphones. This is because FM radio could allow users to receive emergency alerts on their smartphone, even when wireless networks are shut down for whatever reason. The FCC chairman also points out the benefit of enabled FM radios in smartphones, as consumers would be able to gain access to their favorite over-the-air content at just one-sixth of the consumed battery life and less utilized data, compared to media streaming services. Despite his belief that it would be much better for consumers to have the FM radios in their smartphones activated, it does not look like Pai or the government will be doing anything about it soon. Pai noted that, as a believer of free markets and the rule of law, he will not support any mandate by the government to require the activation of the FM chips found in most smartphones. Pai believes that the issues should be sorted out in the marketplace, and such a thing is already happening with 44 percent of top-selling smartphones now having FM radios enabled compared to less than 25 percent two years ago. Will smartphone manufacturers enable FM chips in more devices over the coming years? That remains to be seen. For example, with Apple investing heavily into Apple Music, it is not likely that FM radios that can draw away listeners from its music streaming service will be activated in iPhones any time soon. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 15, 2017
Leader in GDPR-compliant technology to be the headline partner of the acclaimed event recognizing trailblazing data-driven executives, including UK Information Commissioner SEATTLE, WA and LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - Feb 8, 2017) - autoGraph, the leaders in marketing AI for General Data Protection Regulations, announced today it will be the exclusive sponsor for the DataIQ 100 in 2017. As the headline partner of the February 23 event in London, autoGraph CEO and 2016 DataIQ 100 honoree Henry Lawson will open the ceremony with an address alongside David Reed, DataIQ Director of Research and editor-in-chief, and UK Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham. This year's DataIQ 100, the third-annual event of its kind, will once again assemble and honor the cross-industry community of game-changing data and analytics leaders at large and mid-market organizations. A key area of focus at this year's event will be General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), an area in which autoGraph is leading the industry as the only software with the ability to ensure brands are GDPR-compliant in their targeted marketing efforts. "DataIQ 100 is a much-admired event that recognizes the most powerful and influential data professionals representing global brands," says Lawson. "With GDPR being a focal topic of discussion at the ceremony, we wanted to be heavily involved as a sponsor this year to engage and lead the data compliance conversations amongst the best and brightest data executives." This year's DataIQ 100 will notably feature GDPR initiatives taking place in Europe and the influence of those regulations are having on a global scale with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also addressing its data privacy protocols. The consequences for brands not being GDPR-compliant upon the regulations being enacted in May of 2018 will be severe, although this is also an opportunity for brands to engage and gain the trust of their customers on a deeper level. Implementations of autoGraph have demonstrated marketing consent by customers increases up to 75 percent for brands due to the engaging and customer-centric focus of the platform. The participation of luminaries like Denham at the event demonstrates the growing prominence of data protection and the need for compliance as GDPR approaches in 2018. "GDPR will be here quicker than you think. And while there's a lot in there you'll recognize from the current law, make no mistake, this one's a game changer for everyone. We're talking about a 21st century approach to the processing of personal data. We're all going to have to change how we think about data protection," stated Denham. With autoGraph's passion toward developing technology solutions to be GDPR and FCC compliant, involvement at the highest level at the prestigious event as DataIQ 100 recognizes executives impacting the data industry in the following categories: "We associate the sponsor of our event with an elite business that is significantly impacting the data industry," said Adrian Gregory, CEO of DataIQ. "autoGraph is an innovative company at the forefront of GDPR strategies. Seeing an opportunity to introduce executives to a solution that will quickly enable their company to become compliant with the regulations made autoGraph the ideal partner for this year's DataIQ 100." To learn more about autoGraph, please visit www.autograph.me. About autoGraph autoGraph® enables brands to build trust and deliver dynamic customer experiences through the User Generated Profile platform. User Generated Profiles are a patented technology that unlocks consumers' motivations, desires and aspirations. User Generated Profiles define new and unique audiences within a brand's own customer base, and empower consumers to share latent and expressed preferences to brands to deliver emotional, hyper-personalized connections across all digital touch-points. autoGraph is the first to provide a patented technology to generate first party consumer permissions & consent that is in line with EU General Data Protection Regulations and US Federal Communications Commission. autoGraph serves its global client base across retail, media, telecommunications and financial services. autoGraph is based in Seattle, WA and London, and is venture capital-backed by Voyager Capital and Rally Capital. Follow autoGraph on LinkedIn and Twitter. Email queries to email@example.com
News Article | February 28, 2017
Amateur radio operators say the legalization of marijuana is creating a chronic nuisance thanks to interference caused by electrical ballasts that regulate indoor lamps used to grow pot. The American Radio Relay League wants the Federal Communications Commission to take a stand against devices that give off much more interference than federal law allows in homes. Ham radio operators generally say they don't have a problem with pot but worry amateur growers may not be aware that cheap ballasts can have phony FCC-compliance stickers. The operators point out they serve as backup communication during emergencies—but concede it's unlikely any lighting devices would still be on if the power goes out. Johnson, one of the radio league's 166,000 members, said he worries interference will only become a bigger inconvenience in years to come in Maine, which recently legalized growing up to six flowering marijuana plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings. When he recently heard suspicious noisy static, Johnson said, he drove up and down side streets with a spectrum analyzer hooked up to his laptop to determine the source, which turned out to be a licensed grower a mile away who said he had no idea he was causing a disturbance. "My prediction is that as more and more states legalize marijuana, the number of growers is going to increase exponentially and overwhelm the FCC's ability to regulate it," he said. The American Radio Relay League has filed four complaints against the FCC and said it hasn't heard back, and says complaints concerning alleged interference continue to trickle in, particularly in Colorado and California. Cultivation of recreational marijuana is also now legal in Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Alaska, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Will Wiquist, an FCC spokesman, said the agency takes all interference issues seriously and sends warning letters after receiving complaints about unlawful interference, including from lighting. He declined to comment further. Grow lamps are distinctive because they power on and off for 12 hours at a time, and marijuana grow lighting can be powerful enough to produce the same amount of radio interference as a 1,000-watt AM radio station, said Bill Crowley, the Maine section manager of the Radio Relay League. One inexpensive ballast sold by big-box retailers produced 640 times the level of interference of a legal unit, said Mike Gruber, the league's resident radio interference expert, who did the test. The interference often sounds like the kind of harsh, grating static generated by a lightning strike—except it doesn't stop, said Tom Thompson, an amateur radio operator in Boulder, Colorado. Thompson said he has dealt with independent pot growers causing interference a half-dozen times. Given the weak federal enforcement and declining FCC manpower, he said, he has created his own solution: a filtering device that almost eliminates the static by suppressing interference from non-compliant ballasts. "Some won't cooperate, but most do," he said. "I go to their places and give them a filter and give them instructions how to install it." Last year, Kalkaska, Michigan, began requiring medical marijuana growers to use FCC-compliant lighting equipment. Scott Yost, the village's manager, is an amateur radio operator himself. In Maine, Johnson wants legislators to get the state to step in and ban ballasts that produce radio frequency noise extending beyond the user's property. Out-of-compliance ballasts could be refunded or replaced with a unit that doesn't produce noise, he suggests. Several legislators said such a move would likely pre-empt federal law, and a committee recently voted to kill such a bill. Other ham radio operators say the federal government should do its job. Crowley said he has experienced a disturbance himself, and hopes President Donald Trump's new FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai—who has praised pending federal legislation aimed at helping amateur radio operators—will be more sympathetic. Education might be the answer and could make growers more aware of the need to use ballasts approved by the FCC, said Erin Worthing, of Cape Elizabeth, a recreational marijuana caregiver. The FCC-approved grow lighting he uses for his crops lead to a higher-quality product, he said, as noncompliant ballasts also tend to be cheap and poorly designed. The White House said last week that the Justice Department will begin stepping up enforcement of federal laws prohibiting recreational marijuana. Noting that marijuana remains federally illegal, Worthing said, "Under the current climate, we don't want feds knocking on doors." Explore further: First amateur radio in geosynchronous orbit will aid disaster communications