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.

Amateur radio in the news: Hurricanes, North Korea, advanced communications

hurricane_symbol_blueHam radio still part of hurricane center arsenal. Amid the high-tech computers, satellite dishes and sophisticated equipment at the National Hurricane Center is a HAM radio operator station, somewhat hidden in a back office. It might seem like it’s akin to placing a teletype on a space shuttle. But when hurricanes form, the amateur radio station cranks up and receives weather information from HAM operators in the affected areas. Their observations help the forecasters in Miami-Dade County better judge a storm’s strength or position and issue more precise warnings.

ARRRRGHHHH. Someone please tell this reporter that “ham” is not capitalized!!

Ham radio operators hope to put North Korea on the air. A group of amateur radio operators are hoping to get permission from the North Korean government for a month-long trip to the country during which they’ll set up a ham radio operation. If they manage to pull off the plan, they’ll have succeeded where few have before. North Korea has no amateur radio operators and government-sanctioned transmissions by foreigners in the country are extremely rare. This makes North Korea the rarest country for contacts in the amateur radio world.

Can you imagine what a pileup this operation–if they can get permission–is going to generate?? 

NIST and NTIA announce plans for new advanced communications center. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced plans to establish a national Center for Advanced Communications in Boulder, Colo. The new center will implement a key provision of a memorandum President Obama issued earlier today on “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation.”

This sounds like something that the ARRL should keep an eye on.

Amateur Radio in the News; CERT, RFI, “magic band”

San Ramon CERTCERT volutneers, amateur radio operators ‘leap’ into action
The San Ramon Valley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program along with local amateur radio operators participated in a mock communications drill on Saturday. Volunteers placed hundreds of stuffed “CERT green” frogs placed throughout the community to help simulate victims of a major disaster.

Florida resident cited for ham interference
In an unusual case, the FCC cited Ruben Lopez of Pomona Park, Fla. for harmful interference with amateur radio frequencies. He has 30 days to respond to the Enforcement Bureau or risk being fined up to $16,000 for each violation and having his equipment seized. In this case, the subject of the interference is a well pump, according to the agency.

Sweet sound of ham radio
Timaru (New Zealand) radio enthusiast George Boorer is thrilled with the national switchover to digital television. It means after 40 years he can head back out to his “radio shack” and tap into the six-metre international amateur band, otherwise known as “the magic band”.

 

From the NIST Tech Beat: emcomm, generators

Here are a couple of items that may be of interest to amateur radio operators from the April 17 issue of the NIST Tech Beat:

tb20130417-nytest_originalNIST Tests in New York City Suggest How to Improve Emergency Radio Communications
Radio communications can be unreliable in underground tunnels and other large, complicated structures, posing a safety hazard for emergency responders. New tests of wireless emergency safety equipment by NIST have defined the challenges more precisely and suggest how emergency communications might be improved.

Prototype Generators Emit Much Less Carbon Monoxide, NIST Finds
Portable electric generators retrofitted with off-the-shelf hardware by the University of Alabama emitted significantly lower levels of carbon monoxide, according to the results of tests conducted by NIST for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Amateur radio in the news: Purdue club

Geoffrey Stewart, son of Andy Stewart of Chelmsford, operates his ham radio. His call sign is KB1USE. COURTESY PHOTO

Ham radio: the original social network
Andy Stewart and his friends could be considered revolutionary. “The jokes that I hear are that ham radio was the original social network,” he said.

Purdue’s ham radio club turns 100.
During open house, members can spend their time however they want. Most of the time, members learn more about ham radio, make new contacts from around the world and fix radios. One time, a few members even made a credit card scanner just for fun.

Volunteers vital to Weather Service during severe storms
With the forecast calling for possible severe weather Thursday, the National Weather Service expects to call on its team of weather spotters. They include Roane County ham radio operator Phil Newman. For 16 years, Newman has communicated to fellow operators around the region and the world….

W8P Spreads the Word about End Polio Now

Rotary InternationalOn Saturday and Sunday, February 23-24, 2013, Ann Arbor, MI, USA amateur radio operators gathered at WA2HOM, the amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. They were there to operate special event station W8P to commemorate the founding of the Rotary Club on February 23, 1905 and spread the word about Rotary International’s End Polio Now Campaign.

Operating the station on Saturday were:

  • Dan, KB6NU
  • Jack, N8PMG
  • Jameson, KD8PIJ
  • Dinesh, AB3DC
  • Mark, W8MP

Since the museum is only open from 1500Z – 2200Z, we were only able to operate for seven hours on Saturday. We spent all of our time on 20m phone, with our beam pointed southwest, concentrating on working mostly U.S. stations. We had originally intended to operate on 14.287 MHz, but quickly had to change frequencies, as that portion of the band was occupied by participants in the Mississippi QSO party. Before moving, though, we were able to contact Pertti, EA7GSU, who was operating the event in Spain.

We finally ended up on 14.227 MHz and made a total of 110 contacts on Saturday. This included 29 states and four DX contacts.

On Sunday, we only operated for a couple of hours and made another 27 contacts. While we made fewer contacts on Sunday, the contacts that we did make were more poignant than the ones on Saturday.

My first contact on Sunday was with a gentleman who was spending the winter in Florida, but whose hometown was Standish, Michigan. He told me that his mother had polio, and in the late 1930s and early 1940s, they would put her on a bus for Ann Arbor, where she would receive treatments. While there’s no way to be sure, I think that this ham’s mother was taking part in some of the research leading to the Salk vaccine in 1955. That research took place right here at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

I also talked to hams that had direct experience with polio. One was a polio survivor himself. Another’s wife was a polio survivor. A third was a physician who had been to Africa and had treated polio victims there.

It was a real treat to combine two activities that I enjoy so much–amateur radio and Rotary–and it felt good to know that in some small way I was furthering the work of the End Polio Now campaign. I hope that next year we will once again operate this special event and get even more Rotarians and amateur radio operators to participate.

Amateur radio in the news: Hams threatened in TX, ham starts biz in CO, MI hams support sled dog race

Here’s another installment of amateur radio in the news…….Dan

Radio operator accused of terroristic threats. This is bizarre. MySanAntonio.Com reports “A man arrested on allegations that he used amateur radio channels to threaten to kill members of a local amateur radio club has been released from the Bexar County Jail. An arrest affidavit states Watkins, known on radio frequencies as ‘White Noise,’ was creating interference and illegally transmitting over radio bands without having the required radio operator license.”

Ham sends transmitters to Venus. Robert Sternowski, WB0LBI, is president of Softronics, Ltd., a company that designs electronic products and systems specializing in radios. One of Softronics’ first contracts was to design and build a transmitter that NASA sent to Venus.

Hams help dogs stay on track. The Hiawatha Amateur Radio Club is once again providing communications for the UP 200 dog sled race. According to Paul Racine, KB0P, vice president of the club there are some people that get their ham license just for the purpose of helping out during the UP 200 sled dog race.

 

Amateur radio in the news: 11/18/12

This edition of “Amateur Radio in the News” features a story on how a young ham in Ireland helped prevent an airline disaster and how electrical engineering students in New Mexico are getting licenses and using amateur radio as a basis for their senior projects.

Ham radio fan saves U.S. bacon by spotting Sandy mayday call. Amateur radio fan Benny Young, from Tyrone, was tuning in on his hut-based hobby when he heard a ‘mayday’ call from a plane over the Atlantic. But the United Airlines captain, en route from Dublin to Boston, wasn’t able to reach flight controllers in the US. Benny, 29, picked up the pilot’s distress call and managed to get it passed on to emergency services. Here are a couple more reports:

Mentor guides NMSU engineering students as they construct amateur radios. Faculty adviser Robert Hull, Professor Vojin G. Oklobdzija and mentor David Hassall, WA5DJJ, mentor these senior engineering students as they complete their senior project – getting their amateur radio licenses and building QRP rigs.

EU standardizes “hamtagonistic” power line network tech. BPL just refuses to go away. I don’t know why Europe is so keen on this technology, which has failed to gain any traction at all here in the U.S.

ARRL Bulletin: FCC releases Congressionally-mandated study on amateur radio

[[ Basically, this is a pat on the back from the FCC. Nothing more, nothing less. It's better than a kick in the pants, though. My advice is that if you want to put up a tower, don't move into a housing development where you must sign an agreement that says you can't. D'oh!...Dan ]]

ZCZC AG23
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 22  ARLB022
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  August 23, 2012

To all radio amateurs

On August 20 — in response to a Spring 2012 Congressional directive– the Federal Communications Commission released its findings on the Uses and Capabilities of Amateur Radio Service Communications in Emergencies and Disaster Relief: Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 6414 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

This report contains the FCC’s “review of the importance of emergency Amateur Radio Service communications relating to disasters, severe weather and other threats to lives and property in the United States; and recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio operators in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts; and recommendations for improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in the planning and furtherance of initiatives of the federal government.” It also required “that the study identify impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications and provide recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.”

“There are many positive things included in the FCC report to Congress,” said ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND. “We are pleased that the Commission highlighted the existing Amateur Radio infrastructure to provide disaster and time-critical communications. They also recognized the flexibility of the Amateur Service in working with federal, state, local and tribal emergency service agencies to supplement existing communications. The affirmation of the value that Amateur Radio brings to the communities across the country is underscored by the suggestion that DHS work with state, local, and tribal authorities so they may develop disaster area access or credentialing policies for trained amateur operators, including a means for documenting their qualifications…”‘

While the FCC did hold Amateur Radio in a positive light in its discussion of emergency Amateur Radio Service communications, the FCC report was not as favorable in the portion of the study that addressed impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications. In the comments provided to the FCC as they prepared the study, the ARRL — as well as numerous individuals — cited the proliferation of specific land-use restrictions, such as deed restrictions and homeowners associations covenants, that prohibit the erection of even modest Amateur Radio antennas.

The ARRL cited that such restrictions now apply to tens of millions of homes and condominiums. In communities across every state, these restrictions make finding suitable living arrangements that would also allow amateurs to participate effectively in providing support communications nearly impossible to find. The FCC disagreed with that assessment stating “…our review of the record does not indicate that amateur operators are unable to find homes that are not subject to such restrictions. Therefore, at this time, we do not see a compelling reason for the Commission to revisit its previous determinations that preemption should not be expanded to CCRs.”

When considering any current rules that serve as impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications, the report did agree with the ARRL’s position, stating that “Commission rules that may be an impediment to enhanced Amateur Service emergency communications can, as the ARRL notes, be considered through the Commission’s rulemaking process. Consequently, we do not believe that Congressional action is necessary to address any of these issues.”

In the report, the FCC recommended that “DHS consult with the public safety, emergency management and Amateur Radio emergency communications associations and groups to identify training opportunities that will support better utilization of Amateur Radio operators for emergency communications, and to solicit views on how Amateur Radio capabilities could be further incorporated into response plans or initiatives. We also recommend that OEC include these recommendations in the NECP.”

Henderson noted that it is significant “that the FCC recommends efforts be continued by DHS to facilitate the training and utilization of Amateur Radio across the emergency and disaster response spectrum — from the public sector through to the various groups and organizations which provide support communications via the Amateur Service, including ARES, RACES, MARS or locally organized support groups. When served agencies and amateur groups plan and train cooperatively, it only enhances our abilities to serve our communities and the public.”

With the delivery of the FCC’s report to Congress, the ARRL will determine its next step in its efforts to find relief for amateurs who live under unduly restrictive private land-use regulations. “Our review of the FCC report shows that there is a lot to be done if amateurs living in deed-restricted properties are to receive even the limited relief they enjoy under the Commission’s PRB-1 ruling or the limited relief given to deed-restricted properties given by the FCC’s OTARD ruling,” Henderson said. “This means continuing ARRL’s efforts on Capitol Hill and continuing to seek a Congressional directive to the Commission to extend those limited preemptions to include prohibition of effective Amateur Radio antennas and support structure that are imposed by private land use restrictions. The FCC report to Congress is not the final action in this fight. It merely lays the groundwork for the next steps to be taken by the ARRL,” he concluded.

Read the complete FCC report on the web.

Is amateur radio’s focus on emergency communications “over the top”?

On the HamRadioHelpGroup, one ham asked:

Over lunch today I read the September issue of QST, which is heavily EmComm oriented.  Articles were interesting, but the Opinion piece on page 98 seemed a little over the top to me.

Has this focus of this intensity always been a part of ham radio and I just wasn’t expecting it?  How has it evolved over the years?

Another replied:

From Part 97 of the Code of Federal Regulations…

Sec. 97.1  Basis and purpose.

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

  1. Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
  2. Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
  3. Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.
  4. Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
  5. Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

I think that 97.1(a) addresses your question.

To that, I replied:

Providing emergency and public-service communications has been a part of amateur radio since its beginnings. Some hams are extremely focused on this, and I applaud them. In my opinion, the piece referred to in the latest QST was not over the top.

Hams do sometimes go overboard on this emcomm thing, though, acting as if it’s the only reason that ham radio exists. It’s not. That’s why I’m glad that Tim posted Section 97.1 here. As you can see, the rules describe five different “purposes” for amateur radio. Emcomm might be the first, but it’s only one of five. We need to keep in mind the other four as well.

What do you think?