Amateur radio in the news: oldest social media, convention, FCC shutdown

Ham radio operators stay true to social media’s low-tech roots. Long ago, before Facebook, Twitter and email, ham radio operators were the original social media geeks. And they’re still out there, in greater numbers than ever, chatting and messaging each other all over the world without an Internet connection or even a telephone line.

Amateur radio club hosts convention. The Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club hosted the 2013 ARRL Southwestern Division Convention in September at the Marriott Hotel in Buellton. The conference brought together amateur radio enthusiasts from all of Southern California and Arizona to share and learn from the experts on specific topics of concern. The conference stressed two areas of interest: emergency preparedness and attracting young students to the art of Amateur Radio.

Shutdown upends ham radio buffs’ Wake Isle trip marking massacre. For anyone questioning the reach of the federal government shutdown, consider Wake Island. Not much more than military-plane refueling and classified operations occur on the unincorporated U.S. territory, a coral atoll located between Hawaii and Guam, about 6,700 miles (10,780 kilometers) from the legislative standoff in Washington. That was about to change this week with the arrival of a dozen ham-radio operators who thought they’d won approval for a two-week commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the World War II massacre of almost 100 U.S. civilian contractors on Wake Island by the Japanese on Oct. 7, 1943. Instead, after months of preparation, the trip is on ice because of a paperwork delay the group attributes to the partial federal shutdown, which started Oct. 1 as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a stopgap spending measure.

ARRL Executive Committee to consider regulatory issues

There’s some interesting stuff on this agenda. For example, I like the idea of changing the rules to delete all mention of “symbol rate,” and instead specify maximum bandwidths. That seems more in line with our charter to “advance the state of the radio art.”

As always, if there’s something that you feel passionate about, get in touch with your ARRL director.


SB QST @ ARL $ARLB023
ARLB023 ARRL Executive Committee to Consider Numerous Regulatory Issues

ZCZC AG23
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 23 ARLB023
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT October 3, 2013
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB023
ARLB023 ARRL Executive Committee to Consider Numerous Regulatory Issues

The ARRL Executive Committee (EC) will face an agenda heavy on FCC and regulatory issues when it meets Saturday, October 5 in the Denver, Colorado, area.

Among action items, the EC is expected to consider the filing of a Petition for Rule Making, now in draft, seeking to delete restrictions on symbol rates for data communication and to establish a 2.8 kHz maximum authorized bandwidth for HF digital data emissions. At its July meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors directed ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, to prepare a Petition for Rule Making with the FCC seeking to modify §97.307(f) to delete all references to “symbol rate.” The Petition would ask the FCC “to apply to all amateur data emissions below 29.7 MHz the existing bandwidth limit, per §97.303(h), of 2.8 kHz.”

The Board determined that the current symbol rate restrictions in §97.307(f) “no longer reflect the state of the art of digital telecommunications technology,” and that the proposed rule change would “encourage both flexibility and efficiency in the employment of digital emissions by amateur stations.” ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, explained the Board’s action on symbol rate regulation in his September 2013 QST “It Seems to Us” editorial.

The EC also will consider authorizing comments on an FCC Public Notice on recommendations approved by the WRC-15 Advisory Committee. The Committee will consider approving the filing of comments with the FCC that express concerns about expanding proposed radiolocation use of the 77.5 to 78 GHz band beyond on-vehicle applications to, for example, fixed roadside applications. The comment deadline is October 11, although the FCC shutdown may change that date.

The EC also will continue to evaluate strategies to improve the FCC’s Amateur Radio enforcement program and consider filing reply comments on FCC ET Docket 13-84, regarding a reexamination of RF exposure regulations (reply comments are due November 11, subject to the FCC shutdown). While the FCC proposals do not alter existing RF exposure limits, they do call for the elimination of existing special evaluation exemptions spelled out in §97.13(c) of the Commission’s rules. Minor rules changes adopted in the Report and Order section of the document took effect August 5.

In addition the EC will discuss a manufacturer’s proposal to delete §97.317(a)(2), requiring that amplifiers operating below 144 MHz ”not be capable of amplifying the input RF power (driving signal) by more than 15 dB gain.” The Committee will consider whether to propose the rules change described.

The EC will hear status updates on other regulatory matters, including the ARRL’s Petition for Rule Making filed last November to create a new MF allocation for the Amateur Service at 472-479 kHz. The FCC’s ET Docket 13-101 regarding receiver performance standards also will come up for discussion, as will pending amendments of the Amateur Service rules governing qualifying exam systems, Amateur Radio use of TDMA equipment, and remote proctoring of exam sessions.

Other topics on the EC agenda for review include the FCC’s proposed revision of Part 15 rules to permit unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices in the 5 GHz band, the effects of communications towers on migratory birds, and amendments to the FCC’s CORES system. There has been no recent FCC action on these items.

The EC also will hear a report on the status of the effort to have the “Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2013″ introduced in the 113th Congress. The objective of the League’s draft bill is an instruction from Congress to the FCC to extend the existing limited preemption of state and local regulation of Amateur Radio station antenna structures to private land-use regulations.
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From my Twitter feed: attic fan dipole, ADIF 3.0.4, ARRL Centennial

 

MW0IAN's avatarIan @MW0IAN
Attic Dipoles g0kya.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/multi-… similar to what I use here with surprising results #hamr

This is an interesting twist on the fan dipole.

 

colinbutler's avatarColin Butler @colinbutler
Amateur Data Interchange Format (ADIF) Standard 3.0.4 released – ow.ly/of2gL #ham #hamr #amateurr

One Tweeter commented that they should have just used JSON. That might be a good idea for the future.

 

RigolHam's avatar

Steve Barfield @RigolHam\
* Share Your Knowledge at the ARRL Centennial Convention! | @arrl amateur radio goo.gl/FXfDxb
I was actually thinking of attending the Centennial celebration. Maybe I’ll propose a talk on the one-day Tech class.

Feds to begin monitoring spectrum usage

According to the Monitoring Time Fed File blog, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will begin monitoring real-world usage of the radio-frequency spectrum in 10 cities and evaluate possible plans to more efficiently utilize both federal and non-federal spectrum.

A document summarizing the plan is available online. At this point, it’s only a pilot program, but the NTIA will use the program to “evaluate whether a more comprehensive monitoring program would create additional opportunities for more efficient spectrum access through, for example, increased and more dynamic sharing.”

The public is invited to comment on this program. More details are available in the document.

This should probably encourage us all to use our bands more, and in the words of a fellow club member, “everything 2m and above is underused.” I tend to agree with this assessment. Do you? Got any good ideas on how to use the UHF/microwave bands?

Notes from the ARRL Board Meeting, July 19-20, 2013

ARRLI haven’t gotten the full minutes yet from the recent ARRL board meeting, but there’s a news story about the meeting on the ARRL website. Some interesting things were discussed:

  • ARRL to spend big bucks on Logbook of the World. The board voted to spend $75,000 on outside professional services to improve LoTW’s database. The Board also okayed the hiring of a full-time Headquarters staff member with “strong IT development and architectural skills” to address LoTW improvements. That seems like an awful lot of money to me.
  • ARRL will petition FCC to get rid of symbol rate references. Instead of specifying symbol rates in Part 97. 307(f) , the petition would ask the FCC “to apply to all amateur data emissions below 29.7 MHz the existing bandwidth limit, per §97.303(h), of 2.8 kHz.” I like this idea a lot. It will give hams the incentive to experiment with new digital modes.
  • New training materials.  The article notes that the Board “directed Headquarters staff to investigate the feasibility, benefits and costs of preparing license training materials designed for shorter course sessions.” Uhhhh, I’ve had those materials for many years now. Not only that, the PDF version is FREE! 

I’m jumping on the anti-encryption bandwagon (maybe)

A recent Petition for Rule Making (RM-11699) seeks to permit the encryption of certain amateur communications during emergency operations or related training exercises. This change, should it be approved, would amend §97.113, which currently prohibits “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”

On the face of it, it seems like a reasonable proposal. The petition asks that the rule be changed to allow encryption of certain information when passing messages that may contain sensitive information. Indeed, the petition says that such encryption may be required under the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The ARRL is against this petition. They say that the petition’s reasons for allowing encryption is completely unfounded. They say that radio amateurs, “are not ‘covered entities’ under HIPAA, which applies only to health care providers, health plans and health care clearinghouses.”

KE9V and others say that allowing encryption is a bad idea because it will hinder our ability to self-police amateur radio. KE9V also notes that allowing encryption would allow some to claim that amateur radio could be used for terrorist and other nefarious activities, and that could lead to a shutdown of amateur radio.

I think he’s got a point there. Why give those who would shut down amateur radio the ammo to do so?

KE9V goes on to say that it’s time for a wholesale reevaluation of our role in emergency communications. Amen, brother. It seems to me that as time goes on, what the “served agencies” need and want are becoming more and more different from what amateur radio is prepared to provide.

From the ARRL Letter 6/27/13: Intruder Watch, 13 Colonies special event

Here are two items from today’s ARRL Letter. I include the first one because you’ll notice that there is no report for Region 2. The ARRL is responsible for the Intruder Watch in Region 2 and seems to be behind our brothers in Regions 1 and 3 when it comes to reporting on intruders. I’ve included the item on the 13 Colonies Special Event because I like working this event and would encourage all of you to do so as well…..Dan

IARU(1)International: Intruder Watch Documents Odd Bursts, Beeps and Buzzes on the Bands
The International Amateur Radio Union Monitoring System (IARUMS) continues to observe and log suspect and apparently unauthorized operations that intrude on Amateur Radio allocations. For example, the

TheMay 2013 IARUMS Region 1 (Europe) Newsletterreports an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar operating in Iran daily on 10 meters (26 to 30 MHz), transmitting bursts with 307 and 870 sweeps per second, 60 kHz wide and often jumping, covering 700 kHz and more. IARUMS Region 3 (Oceania) volunteers also have reported hearing the OTH interference from Iran. Regulatory agencies in Switzerland and Germany have filed complaints without effect.

IARUMS volunteers in Region 1 also report BPSK daily military traffic from Ukraine on 15 meters. German authorities have formally complained. DGØJBJ reports having observed 11 OTH radars on 20 meters, 65 OTH radars on 15 meters and 30 OTH radars on 10 meters — not including the OTH radars from Iran.

IARUMS Region 3 volunteers further report ongoing “illegal use of 10 meters for local short-range communications in a number of Asian countries.” Radio Amateurs in IARU Region 2 (the Americas) may report suspected intruders on exclusive Amateur Radio allocations to the ARRL.

On the Air: 13 Colonies Special Event Set
The annual 13 Colonies Special Event will take place during the first week of July, with participating 13 colonies’ stations on the air from 1300 UTC July 1 until 0400 UTC July 6. Event sponsors say at least two special event stations will operate from each colony state. The theme for 2014 is “Banners of the Revolution,” and the certificate — available to all participants regardless of the number of stations worked — will reflect that theme.

Those working all 13 colonies qualify for a “Clean Sweep” certificate designation, and a special endorsement will be attached for stations working WM3PEN in Philadelphia. The suggested exchange is call sign, name, signal report and state/province/country. The event’s sponsors report that more than 62,000 contacts were logged in last year’s 13 Colonies Special Event.

From the trade magazines: spectrum sharing, active filters, real capacitors

Passive components aren’t really so passive (Part 1): Capacitors. Transistors and ICs are considered active components because they change signals using energy from the power supply. Capacitors, resistors, inductors, connectors, and even the printed-circuit board (PCB) are called passive because they don’t seem to consume power. But these apparently passive components can, and do, change the signal in unexpected ways because they all contain parasitic portions. So, many supposedly passive components, like the capacitor shown below, aren’t so passive.

The model above shows that a capacitor adds more than just capacitance when you use it in a circuit.

Peaceful coexistence on the radio spectrum. How two engineers (shown at right) tried to get the military to share some spectrum with their small company.

Signal-chain basics #43: Active filters. While low-frequency filters can be designed with inductors and capacitors, they often require physically large and often expensive inductors. This is where active filters, which combine an operational amplifier (op amp) with some resistors and capacitors, become attractive. Active filters can provide an LCR-like performance at low frequencies

From my inbox: CQ Burger King, BPL, solderless PL-259

Amateur radio plays a big part in this new Burger King ad.

 

FCC Denies ARRL BPL Petition. As this commentary from TV Technology notes, the FCC denied the ARRL’s that BPL systems include full time notching of amateur radio frequencies and an increase in the required notch depth from 25 dB to 35 dB. They also say, “While the Second MO&O isn’t good news for amateur radio operators, utilities seem to have lost their interest in using BPL to provide residential Internet access…and smart meters so it may have little real impact.” Let’s hope it stays that way.

Solderless PL-259. On the AMRAD mailing list, one ham writes:

Shakespeare has been in the marine antenna business since shortly before the discovery of oceans and they have a couple of bits of kit which you might consider for your ARES or Field Day bug-out box. They make a PL259 and a coax cable spice which go together with nothing but a knife sharp enough to cut the plastics and a pair of pliers. I wouldn’t try running the legal limit through these (the coax they fit wouldn’t like it either) but i have used the PL259 for up to 100-watt service and they have performed admirably.

They are kind of expensive at around $15 a pop, but they do look like quality parts and that they’d work pretty good in a pinch.

ARLB008 FCC Seeks to Reassess RF Exposure Limits

fcc-sealI find the topic of RF exposure very interesting. It seems to me that back in the 1960s and 1970s, when I was just getting into radio, we never even thought about exposure. Now, people go crazy over it. Here in Ann Arbor, for example, the power company is installing “smart” power meters that send data via a cellular system back to a system that monitors power consumption. These devices are  low power at a low duty cycle, yet consumers are getting all bent out of shape about it…Dan

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB008
ARLB008 FCC Seeks to Reassess RF Exposure Limits

ZCZC AG08
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 8 ARLB008
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT April 4, 2013
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB008
ARLB008 FCC Seeks to Reassess RF Exposure Limits

On March 27, the FCC released a First Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and a Notice of Inquiry (ET Docket Nos. 13-84 and 03-137). The documents seek to reassess the FCC’s RF exposure limits and policies, as well as to propose changes to the FCC’s rules regarding human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields. These proposed changes would affect the Amateur Radio Service (Part 97) rules. The First Report and Order can be found on the web in PDF format.

In the 201-page document, the FCC noted that “[p]eriodic review of the government’s rules and regulations to ensure they have kept pace with current knowledge and changing needs is an important characteristic of good government, and we here will advance the process of providing a comprehensive review and modification, where appropriate, of this Commission’s various rules pertaining to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for environmental reviews, specifically those reviews related to health and safety of radiofrequency (RF) emissions from radio transmitters. Our actions herein are intended to ensure that our measures are compliant with our environmental responsibilities and requirements and that the public is appropriately protected from any potential adverse effects from RF exposure as provided by our rules, while avoiding any unnecessary burden in complying with these rules.”

The document is divided into three parts: a First Report and Order (First R&O) and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in ET Docket No. 03-137, and a Notice of Inquiry (Inquiry) in a new docket, ET Docket No. 13-84. In the R&O, the FCC looks at several technical and semantic issues — initiated in 2003 — to be revised and updated; in the FNPRM, the FCC proposes to further update and revise its procedures and treat all services equally.

In the Inquiry, the FCC seeks comments to determine whether its RF exposure limits and policies need to be reassessed. “Since consideration of the limits themselves is explicitly outside of the scope of ET Docket 03-137, we propose with the Inquiry to open a new docket to consider those limits in light of more recent developments,” the FCC said. “The Inquiry is intended to open discussion on both the currency of our RF exposure limits and possible policy approaches regarding RF exposure. We look forward to developing a complete record to determine whether the current rules and policies should remain unchanged, or should be relaxed or tightened.”

According to the FCC, mitigation matters are “post-evaluation procedures to ensure exposure limits are not exceeded, such as labels, signs, barriers, enforcement and occupational issues.” In its Notice of Inquiry, the FCC included clarifications related to the application of occupational exposure limits for devices and at fixed transmitter sites. The FCC noted that it “should be helpful to licensees to codify our earlier adopted policy with regard the use of occupational/controlled limits at Amateur Radio stations.”

This policy was first established in the RF Report and Order of 1996, but it was not incorporated in the rules at that time. It allows amateur stations to be evaluated “with respect to occupational/controlled exposure limits, as long as appropriate training and information has been provided to the amateur licensee and members of his or her immediate household. Other nearby persons who are not members of the amateur licensee’s household must be evaluated with respect to the general population/uncontrolled exposure limits.” The FCC will codify this policy by adding a paragraph as a new sub-section in Section 1.1310 — radiofrequency radiation exposure limits — to its rules.

The FCC pointed out that one goal of the general exemptions from routine RF exposure evaluation proposed “is to avoid specific exemptions for particular services and ensure a consistent set of rules without exceptions.” With this in mind, the FCC is proposing to delete the special exemptions from evaluation in the Amateur Radio Service in Section 97.13(c) of its rules.

“We appreciate that Amateur Radio operators are knowledgeable about the appropriate use of their equipment, such that separation distances are likely to be maintained to ensure compliance with our exposure limits,” the FCC said. “However, since the existing amateur exemptions are based only on transmitter power and do not consider separation distance or antenna gain, exempt transmitting antennas that are unusually close to people could potentially lead to non-compliant exposure levels.” The FCC said that a separation distance of at least 24 feet would meet its proposed exemption criteria, “considering a currently exempt 50 W transmitter at VHF in accord with Section 97.13(c) and assuming an antenna gain of 6 dBd.”

The FCC noted that existing classification of amateur exposure as occupational “is consistent with use of our proposed general exemption criteria based on general population exposure limits because awareness of exposure greater than the general population limits is required in all occupational settings, including amateur households. Application of the general exemptions proposed here to Amateur Radio installations would preclude the possibility of overexposure and require further evaluation only when necessary, giving guidance for both fixed and mobile transmitting antennas.”

The FCC invited comments on how this would affect the amateur community: “Parties that support maintaining the current exemption based on power alone are requested to explain how it provides adequate assurance that the public is protected against exposure to RF energy in excess of our limits and the extent of the burden imposed by this proposal. We encourage interested parties to comment on the relative costs and benefits of the proposed changes in this section, as well as those of alternative approaches.”

“The ARRL has an RF Safety Committee, consisting of experts in the field,” explained ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ; “The committee members, as well as Board members and staff are reviewing the lengthy document and will formulate a response.”

Comments will be accepted until 90 days after the R&O, FNPRM and Notice of Inquiry are published in the Federal Register (this can take up to six weeks after its release by the FCC). Reply comments will be accepted until 150 days after publication in the Federal Register.
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