Amateur Radio Antenna “CC&R Bill” Reintroduced in Congress

A lot of hams think that the biggest challenge amateur radio operators face are the restrictive deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that are in effect in many new housing developments. Basically, these CC&Rs prevent residents from erecting an outdoor antenna. This, of course, limits how effective our stations can be.

In 1985, the FCC issued a memorandum opinion and order commonly referred to as PRB-1. This order limits the power that local governments have in putting restrictive antenna ordinances into effect. It says that because amateur radio operators are licensed by the federal government, local governments must make reasonable accomodation when amateur radio operators apply to erect antenna structures. Time and time again this memorandum has held up in court.

Unfortunately, this memorandum does not apply to private agreements, such as the CC&Rs mentioned previously. Many amateurs are, therefore, limited to using antennas that can be built in an attic or a very small antenna on the outside of their house. Needless to say this is not a good situation, and often discourages people from getting an amateur radio license.

The article below describes an effort to treat restrictive provisions in CC&Rs in the same way that restrictive ordinances are treated. I’d encourage you to read this article from the ARRL website and then write your Congressional representative and ask him or her to support this bill. You can send your rep an e-mail by going to http://www.house.gov/writerep/. To send snail mail, the address is U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.

From the ARRL:

NEWINGTON, CT, Sep 23, 2005–New York Congressman Steve Israel has reintroduced legislation that could make it easier for radio amateurs living in communities with deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to erect suitable antennas. Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, WD5DVR, signed aboard as an original cosponsor of the “Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act” (HR 3876). ARRL Hudson Division Director Frank Fallon, N2FF, who attended Israel’s public announcement of the bill September 19 on Long Island, pointed out the Amateur Radio volunteers always fill the gap after other communication systems fail in an emergency or disaster. He notes the bill’s introduction comes in the immediate aftermath of positive media coverage of Amateur Radio’s response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

“Unfortunately if all new housing developments contain deed restrictions forbidding outside antennas there will probably come a time when there will not be enough ham radio operators to help their neighbors and countrymen,” said Fallon. He believes Israel’s bill will help to ensure that Amateur Radio will continue to be able to provide emergency communication should a disaster occur.

Fallon, who head up the League’s grassroots lobbying initiative, was on hand for Israel’s announcement, which took place at the home of ARRL New York City-Long Island Emergency Coordinator Tom Carrubba, KA2D.

A reporter for WLNY-TV (Channel 55) interviews Rep Israel about the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act of 2005. [Frank Fallon, N2FF, Photo]

The one-sentence measure is identical to the text of the CC&R bill that has been introduced in the last two sessions of Congress: “For purposes of the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation relating to station antenna structures in the Amateur Radio Service (47 CFR 97.15), any private land use rules applicable to such structures shall be treated as a state or local regulation and shall be subject to the same requirements and limitations as a state or local regulation.”

The measure would put private land-use regulations, such as homeowners’ association rules, on the same legal plane as state or local zoning regulations under the FCC’s PRB-1 limited federal preemption regarding antenna structures–§97.15 of the Amateur Service rules. PRB-1 now applies only to states and municipalities.

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, is encouraging League members to write their elected representative and ask that they cosponsor and support the bill, especially given two hurricane emergencies in short order.

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP (right), during an earlier visit to Rep Israel’s Washington office.

“I think it’s time now that we, as amateurs, really band together and see what we can do about writing our congressional representatives and explaining to them that Amateur Radio is certainly a part of this nation’s communications infrastructure,” Haynie said. “What we’re asking for is just a fair shake so we can put up antennas and help our fellow citizens.”

While the League has ramped up its efforts to educate members of Congress about Amateur Radio, Haynie said lawmakers respond best to individual members.

HR 3876 has been assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Information about the bill and a sample letter to use when contacting your representative are available on the ARRL Web site.

In his formal announcement this week, Israel said that “often unsung” Amateur Radio volunteers were instrumental in helping residents in the hardest hit areas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including saving stranded flood victims in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“State and local governments, as well as disaster relief agencies, could not possibly afford to replace the services that radio amateurs dependably provide for free,” said a statement from Israel’s office. “However, the hundreds of thousands of Amateur Radio licensees face burdensome regulations that make it extremely difficult to provide their public services.”

In past statements, Israel has said that the growth of developed communities has put a growing number of hams under an “array of inconsistent regulations” that make it harder and harder–or altogether impossible–to erect the necessary antennas.

No Electronics Magazines? Think Again.

Many ham radio operators grew up with magazines such as Popular Electronics, Electronics Illustrated, and Radio-Electronics. Sadly, these magazines are gone now, but there are still electronics magazines out there that can help you keep up with what’s going on in electronics. These magazines are written for practicing electronics engineers, so many of the articles will not be relevant to amateur radio or written in such a way to be nearly incomprehensible to electronics hobbyists, but you can’t beat the price. They’re free!

The magazines I’m referring to electronics engineering trade magazines. These magazines are sent out free to electronics engineers and others working in the industry, and are supported by the advertisers. You’re not an electronics engineer? Don’t worry. If you e-mail me, I’ll tell you how you can qualify. Also, these magazines generally make their content free on the Web.

Let me give you an example of the good stuff you can find in these trade magazines. The theme for the September 15, 2005 issue of Electronics Design was Wireless Design, and nearly every article was on this topic. On one of the very first pages, there was a link to Discover Circuits, ” a resource for engineers, hobbyists, inventors & consultants, is a collection of 11,000+ electronic circuits or electronic schematics cross-referenced into 500+ categories to find quick solutions for electronic design problems.”

On that same page there are results of a survey that asked the question, “Which electronics hobby influenced you to choose engineering as a career”? Electronics kit building topped the list at 36%, but amateur radio came in a close second at 34%. If that’s not a good indicator of the value of amateur radio, I don’t know what is.

The editorial contains a link to the NTIA spectrum allocation chart. It’s a wonderful chart, but at 42-in. x 27-in., I don’t think you’re going to be printing it out on your inkjet printer.

One of the feature articles in this issue is Take A Peek Inside Today’s Spectrum Analyzers. This is an interesting discussion of the different types of spectrum analyzers currently available. While you won’t find a spectrum analyzer in many ham shacks, these are useful tools, and you can sometimes get a deal on one at hamfests and used equipment dealers.

Finally, the product section contains a writeup describing a ZigBee Radio with RS-232 and USB interfaces. These units cost only $99, and might be fun to play with in some ham radio applications.

Some of the other trade magazines that are available include:

As I said before, they’re free, so why not sign up for one or more?

A Headphone Kit

When I got back on the air three years ago, I purchased some Radio Shack headphones. They got good reviews on eHam, where relatively inexpensive, and accessible (there’s a Radio Shack only a couple miles from my house).

Fortunately, they turned out to be pretty good headphones. They were designed for use at racetracks (to monitor pit-driver communications) and did a great job of keeping out ambient noise. About the only thing I didn’t like is that they fit quite tightly, and therefore, could become uncomfortable after a time.

Unfortunately, they have one design flaw. They have a short, coiled cord connecting the phone plug to the headphone, and after three years of twisting and turning, the jacket has broken, and I’m afraid it won’t be long before the wires break. And, everythings molded together, so I can’t easily repair the thing.

That got me thinking about buying another set of headphones. When I bought the Radio Shack headphones, I’d considered the TR-2000 headset from Warren Gregoire Associates, but I didn’t want to wait for a mail order to arrive. Now, that i had the time, I decided to give them a try.

For $38 ($30 + $8 shipping), you get not only a set of headphones, but a boom mike as well. It’s a kit that you have to finish assembling, but that’s not a big deal. I decided not to install the boom mike, and it took me about 20 minutes to get it all together.

I like them. They’re more comfortable than the Radio Shack headphones, although they’re not quite as quiet. That’s the tradeoff. The audio quality seems to be equal to or better than the Radio Shack phones, although I’m not that discerning when it comes to audio quality.

One caution: for $30, you don’t get connectors. This wasn’t a problem for me, as I had the 1/4-in. phone plug, and I wasn’t going to install the microphone, but if you don’t have a ready source for connectors, you might want to purchase them as well. It’s an extra $8.

Also, you can get the phones pre-assembled. The cost for a pre-assembled headset is $59 plus shipping.

Homebrew a PC board vise

Here’s another great tip from the Elecraft mailing list, courtesy of Bill K3UJ–The $5 PC-Board Holder. If you’re gonna build stuff, you might as well build as many tools as you can.

Hams Hosting Hams

I recently swapped some e-mail about my Brother Clubs idea with Steve AE6NX. He had asked a question on arrl_prez mailing list about whether or not anyone knew of clubs that had ties to other clubs overseas.

In a subsequent e-mail, he pointed me towards the International Travel Host Exchange (ITHE). According to their website:

The International Travel Host Exchange, or ITHE, is a programme administered by the German national society, DARC. It provides radio amateurs with the possibility of free accommodation with other amateurs around the world in exchange for you offering accommodation to overseas amateurs. Once registered, postal or e-mail addresses are made available so that contact can be established well before any visit takes place. If a trip is planned well in advance, it is possible to travel from one member to another and thus experience a whole region or country.

There are almost 700 ITHE members. About 40% are in Europe, 30% in North America, and the rest scattered around the rest of the world.

The ITHE website has an brochure describing how to join up and some articles on the history of ITHE. Basically, in order to be hosted, you have to be willing to host other amateurs. Sounds like fun to me.

The ARRL Must Be More Responsive to Members

I’ve been out campaigning for Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division for about the last month or so, and if there’s one recurring theme, one thing that the members want from the ARRL, it is for them to be responsive. Let me give you an example.

Last night, I visited a local ham radio club meeting. When I asked the president if I could have a couple of minutes to introduce myself, the first thing he said is, “Boy, do I have a bone to pick with the ARRL.” He went on to tell me that he’d just completed the online emergency communications courses, and one of the assignments was to contact the Section Manager and/or other section leaders. He told me that he e-mailed each of them, but never got a response.

Later that evening, another guy approached me and related his experience with the ARRL Awards Program. He’s been working on his Five Band DXCC Award, but has been frustrated because only contacts on the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10-meter bands are allowed. He noted that he really enjoys working the WARC bands and has almost 100 countries on 17m. He sent a letter to the ARRL asking why contacts on 17m are not allowed for this reward, but like the first guy, he never got a response.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard similar comments from many different amateur radio operators. And I’ve had similar experiences with the League. It seems at times as though they blow off any idea that does not come from someone in Newington.

Now, I understand that an organization as large as the ARRL is never going to make everyone happy, BUT it should always respond to its members. Maybe this is the source–or at least one source–of the antagonism so many hams feel towards the ARRL. At any rate, looking into this is on my list of things to do should I get elected as Vice Director.

Oink Oink

You know, there is something quite appealling about operating QRP. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I think it has something to do with being able to make contacts with something that runs off batteries and that you can hold in the palm of your hand. I’m not ready to sell my IC-746PRO, but the KX-1 is really a lot of fun to operate.

This weekend, I operated it in two different contests: QRP Afield and the Flying Pigs’ Run for the Bacon. As I reported earlier, I really was afield on Saturday, operating in both the ARRL’s Amateur Radio Awareness Day / Emergency Power Operating Event and the QRP Afield contest. I was sharing an antenna with Bruce KD8APB and his IC-706, so I was just operating casually, but even so, made eight contacts.

I worked the Flying Pigs’ monthly Run for the Bacon sprint last night. This is a two-hour sprint, and was a lot of fun. I made nine contacts in about an hour, including seven different states, for a score of 189.

The Run for the Bacon is a bit unusual in that scoring is really on the honor system. There’s a web page on which you enter your score–and a comment if you like– and a web-based program scores your entry and posts it immediately to the website. That’s kind of cool.

This being my first RTFB, there was one thing that kind of puzzled me at first. After a QSO, guys would sign “OO.” Now, an OO to me is an Official Observer, but that just didn’t seem right in this context. It finally occurred to me that “OO” is the Flying Pig abbreviation for “Oink Oink.” :)

Researchers to Help Smart Radios Form Cognitive Network

This is the kind of thing that some amateur radio operators somehwere have to start working on. I wonder if anyone in the ARRL is even aware that this kind of research is going on?

Dan

From Newswise, Mon 19-Sep-2005

Cognitive radios present an exciting new frontier for the world of wireless telecommunications. Now Virginia Tech’s Center for Wireless Telecommunications (CWT) has received a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to extend its work in the field of cognitive radio to advance cognitive network capability.

Cognitive radios are like intelligent cell phones or police radios that can determine the best way to operate in any given situation. Instead of blindly following a set of predefined protocols, like regular radios, cognitive radios can now configure to their environment and their user’s needs.

The grant will fund research that will for the first time allow the radios to share a distributed knowledge base to use for individual and collective reasoning and learning. The research will have many important outcomes. First, a cognitive engine will be fully implemented in any wireless network, making it a cognitive one. Cognitive engines will be implemented into the widely available GNU radio, which is a low-cost software-defined radio developed specifically for experimentation in projects like this one. Finally, there will be a practical assessment of the performance advantages of cognitive wireless networks.

This grant was awarded through the NSF’s NetS Programmable Wireless Information Networks Program. Professor Charles W. Bostian is the principal investigator. Co-Pls are Associate Professor Michael Hsiao and Assistant Professor Allen MacKenzie in the the Bradley Department of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Economics Associate Professor Sheryl Ball. Additional sponsorship is provided by Anritsu Company, which will provide much needed testing and measurement equipment. The Virginia Tech researchers will use the equipment to prototype key cognitive radio functions and measure the performance of the resulting designs.

I Don’t Know If We Raised Awareness, but We Did Have Fun

Yesterday, Bruce KD8APB and I had a fine time at Gallup Park operating our Amateur Radio Awareness Day / Emergency Power Operating Event station. 40m was in fine form, and over a period of about five hours we made 27 contacts.

We almost decided not to set up at all. We met at the park about noon, and a fine drizzle was falling. We chatted for a while to see if it would let up, and then wandered around in the drizzle to scout for a good location. As we finished our reconnoiter, the drizzle quit, and Bruce convinced me that we should give it a go.

Bruce had really come prepared. I was planning to use one of the picnic tables there, but Bruce had brought with him not only his antenna and radio, but a card table and chairs. This was a good thing because even though it had stopped raining, the picnic tables were a bit soggy.

We set up on a small rise just south of the first parking lot and just before you get to the bridge. His antenna went up very easily–he’s had a lot of practice–and we were on the air in about 20 minutes. While Bruce got his radio set up, connected the antenna to my KX1, tuned around a bit, and quickly contacted W9EE in Carthage, IL. He gave me a 599 report(!), so I guess we had that Elecraft mojo working.

I made another contact before Bruce got his IC-706 ready to roll. We then we connected the antenna to his rig and made a couple of phone contacts. The band was open, and there was lots of activity.

We had a good laugh over a couple of the contacts we made. The first was with K4B, a special event station in Bardstown, KY at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. We tried to get them to send us some samples, but weren’t very successful.

The other notable contact was with Rose, K8VFR. Part of what I was trying to do is to make contacts in the QRP Afield Contest. I heard Rose call CQ TEST, and called her. She replied right away, but when she sent the exchange, I was confused. I asked her to send again, but I still couldn’t fit what she was sending into the QRP Afield exchange format.

Then it dawned on me–she was working a different contest! She was working the QCWA contest. I told her this, and she asked what info I needed. I told her that I needed RST, state, and power level, which she graciously sent to me. She needed the year I was licensed, state, and my name. I sent this info to her, and after a hearty CW laugh, we said 73.

At one point or another, three different ARROW members showed up. The first was Bruce KD8AON, who rode up on his bicycle. Later, Ralph KB8ZOY made an appearance, and made eight contacts in about 45 minutes. Shortly after Ralph appeared, we spotted Clay W8JNZ and waved him over. He had a woman friend with him, and we enjoyed a nice conversation while Ralph was making Qs.

We not only had fun operating, we did do a little to raise awareness of amateur radio. We were located in a spot that many people enjoying the park passed. While only a few of them actually approached us, many waved or nodded. And Bruce had made up some big signs to inform people what we were doing.

At one point, Bruce went down and grabbed a couple walking along and brought them up to the station and explained in more detail about ham radio. They seemed mildly interested.

Right at the end, we had a guy in his late 20s/early 30s come up with his young son and talk to us about what we were doing. He talked to us for about a half hour, while his son played with his toy truck. He was really interested in ham radio, so I gave him a brochure and invited him to our club meetings and to call me if he wanted to get his license. I hope we’ll be seeing him again.

About 5:20, Bruce and I decided to call it a day. It had never really cleared up, and the clouds were looking threatening again. Good thing we started tearing down when we did. Just as we finished, it did start raining.

An Interesting Confluence of Events

This Saturday, Septemeber 17, 2005, there are three events taking place:

I’m planning work all three events with a single operation: my KX1 running off a battery from a picnic table in Gallup Park.

Amateur Radio Awareness Day is an annual event, and this year they’ve decided to shoehorn in the Emergency Power Operating Event. For the first part, I plan on having brochures near me on the picnic table. And, of course, I plan on evangelizing anyone that happens to show even the slightest interest. My emergency power will be my 12V battery pack.

The QRP Afield Contest is a contest run by the New England QRP Club. The contest officially runs from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, but only your highest-scoring six-hour period counts. Another interesting thing about this contest is the way they score the contacts. You get:

  • 1 point per contact if you are QRO (above 5 watts) and operating from a permanent location,
  • 2 points per contact if you are QRO and operating from a field or mobile location,
  • 5 points per contact if you are QRP (5 watts or less) and operating from a permanent location, and
  • 10 points per contact if you are QRP and operating from a field or mobile location.

So, operating portable with four watts should put me in good stead if band conditions are good.

Anyway, I’m going to put this out on our club net tonight and send out a message to our club maililng list and see if I can get some other people to join me.