You know how bitcoins work. Not yet? We’re still coming up to speed. But we do get the part where bitcoins are created by people doing a lot of intensive computation called “mining.” It reminds us of the old Warner Brothers cartoon where a character turns a crank on a machine and dollar bills fly out.
It turns out you can buy that machine, or at least the bitcoin version, and do exactly what the comic book ads used to promise: make money at home in your spare time. The machine, though, comes with a flaw –at least, the unit used by Victor Rosario of Brooklyn did. All digital devices have the potential to create radio interference. Mr. Rosario’s bitcoin miner put out interference strong enough to make trouble for T-Mobile and its Brooklyn customers. T-Mobile called in the FCC, whose direction-finding equipment zeroed in Mr. Rosarios’s home. The FCC sent Mr. Rosario a stern letter directing him to turn off the machine. It also threatened steep fines, seizure, and imprisonment, and asks questions about the device and where Mr. Rosario bought it.
The item caught our eye because it makes a nice addition to our collection down here in the CommLawBlog bunker of “things that really shouldn’t cause radio interference but do anyway.” We’ll put the bitcoin miner next to the well pump, in among the lighting fixtures here, here, and here, and right behind that still-unknown device in a Lemont, Illinois home. (In another room we keep all the jammers, which differ in that they cause interference intentionally: this one and this one and this one and many more.)
Still unanswered: whether, if the FCC does fine Mr. Rosario, he will be allowed to pay the fine from the bitcoins he mined using the machine that triggered the fine.