Military knocking garage door remotes out for first-responder system

At Quantico, as around the US, suburban homeowners are finding that the little things are subject to military control.

The Marines are clashing with the very symbol of suburbia - the garage door opener, The Washington Post reports. Residents near Quantico Marine Base in Virginia are finding their openers no longer work.

The Marines are using a frequency that is also used by some remote controls. The powerful signal shuts down any remote in its bandwidth, no matter who is holding it -- mothers with screaming children trying to get groceries in the house or gridlocked motorists looking for a light at the end of their commute. Nothing can be done but get a new system operating on a non-conflicting frequency.
That can run you several hundreds of dollars, as Queen Carroll of Dale City, a widow in her early 70s, found out.
"I feel there should be some kind of compensation," Carroll said. "I am a struggling widow, if you will, and I praise the Lord I'm still here, but I am on a budget. When things like this come up totally unexpected, it is very upsetting."

It's a syndrome that's happening all over the country, as military installations convert to narrow-band spectrum. Rob Roberts of Cristar Garage Door & Controls Inc. explained: "It is a big thing within the industry," he said. "They are taking their frequency back. It isn't just around Quantico; it is everywhere, anywhere there is any type of military installation."

"Marine Corps Base Quantico transitioned to a new bandwidth for land mobile radios in 2005 as part of a government-mandated, Department of Defense-wide conversion to narrow-band systems from wide-band systems in military bases around the country," Lt. Brian P. Donnelly said. "The transition was made to foster more efficient spectrum use, allowing a variety of military and government organizations to better protect national security."

It's little known to most garage owners that their spectrum is actually owned by the Marine Corps.

Since the years preceding World War II, the military has held a portion of the radio spectrum in reserve, from 138 to 450 megahertz. That part was borrowed by remote control manufacturers with the understanding that the signal be weak enough to be overridden by the military.

Since Sept. 11, the military has been reclaiming the reserve spectrum for a system that will allow first-responders to communicate and eventually link the military with civilian agencies.

"Consumer wireless devices, such as garage door openers, operate on an unlicensed basis, meaning they are required to accept any interference from licensed spectrum users, including the Department of Defense," Donnelly said.

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