Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

From the ARRL. It’s good that Rep. Walden is a licensed radio amateur, but this kind of thing always makes me uneasy….Dan

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB033
ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

ZCZC AG33
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 33 ARLB033
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT December 5, 2013
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB033
ARLB033 Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934

The US House Communications and Technology Subcommittee has announced plans for a multi-year effort to examine and update the Communications Act of 1934, the overarching law under which the FCC functions. The subcommittee, part of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, is chaired by Oregon Republican Greg Walden, W7EQI. Walden and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton of Michigan made the announcement December 3.

“Today we are launching a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era,” Upton said in a news release. “The United States has been the global leader in innovation and growth of the Internet, but unfortunately, our communications laws have failed to keep pace.”

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the most recent significant update of the Communications Act was in 1996. “Under the leadership of Greg Walden, the subcommittee and its staff are well equipped to take up the challenge,” Sumner said. “The ARRL will be monitoring the work closely as it goes forward next year and beyond.”

The plan was made public via Google Hangout, where the committee leaders were joined by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who said he was “delighted” to learn of the update plans. Upton explained that the process, to start in 2014, will involve a series of white papers and hearings focusing on what might be done “to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace as well as a robust conversation utilizing all platforms of digital media.” He suggested a bill would be ready by 2015.

Walden said, “A lot has happened since the last update” and that the Communications Act is “now painfully out of date.” He pointed out that the Act, drafted during the Great Depression, was last updated “when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art.”

Upton said, “We must ensure that our laws make sense for today but are also ready for the innovations of tomorrow.”

Walden said he wants to open the discussion to input from everyone. Interested parties may follow the plan’s progress via Twitter. “It’s important for people to have an opportunity to weigh in,” he said. “This is really a public process to get better public policy.”
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ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

Here’s the latest bulletin from the ARRL. I like this idea. How about you?

SB QST @ ARL $ARLB030
ARLB030 ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

ZCZC AG30
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 30 ARLB030
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT November 20, 2013
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB030
ARLB030 ARRL Files “Symbol Rate” Petition with FCC

The ARRL has asked the FCC to delete the symbol rate limit in §97.307(f) of its Amateur Service rules, replacing it with a maximum bandwidth for data emissions of 2.8 kHz on amateur frequencies below 29.7 MHz. The ARRL Board of Directors adopted the policy underlying the petition initiative at its July 2013 meeting. The petition was filed November 15.

“The changes proposed would, in the aggregate, relieve the Amateur Service of outdated, 1980s-era restrictions that presently hamper or preclude Amateur Radio experimentation with modern high frequency (HF) and other data transmission protocols,” the League’s petition asserted. “The proposed rule changes would also permit greater flexibility in the choice of data emissions.” Symbol rate represents the number of times per second that a change of state occurs, not to be confused with data (or bit) rate.

Current FCC rules limit digital data emissions below 28 MHz to 300 baud, and between 28.0 and 28.3 MHz to 1200 baud. “Transmission protocols are available and in active use in other radio services in which the symbol rate exceeds the present limitations set forth in §97.307(f) of the Commission’s Rules, but the necessary bandwidths of those protocols are within the bandwidth of a typical HF single sideband channel (3 kHz),” the ARRL’s petition pointed out.

The League said that while bandwidth limitations are reasonable, the  symbol rate “speed limit” reflective of 1980s technology, prohibits radio amateurs today from utilizing state-of-the-art technology. Present symbol rate limits on HF “actually encourage spectrum inefficiency,” the League argues, “in that they allow data transmissions of unlimited bandwidth as long as the symbol rat is sufficiently slow.” The League said eliminating symbol rate limits on data emissions and substituting a “reasonable maximum authorized bandwidth” would permit hams to use all HF data-transmission protocols now legal in the Amateur Service as well as other currently available protocols that fall within the authorized bandwidth but are off limits to amateurs.

The League said it’s been more than three decades – when the Commission okayed the use of ASCII on HF – since the FCC has evaluated symbol rate restrictions on radio amateurs as a regulatory matter. “The symbol rate restrictions were created to suit digital modes that are no longer in favor,” the ARRL noted in its petition. Modern digital emissions “are capable of much more accurate and reliable transmissions at greater speeds with much less bandwidth than in 1980.”

As an example, the League pointed to PACTOR 3, which is permitted under current rules, and PACTOR 4, which is not. Despite PACTOR 4′s greater throughput, both protocols can operate within the bandwidth of a typical SSB transmission.

“If the symbol rate is allowed to increase as technology develops and the Amateur Service utilizes new data emission types, the efficiency of amateur data communications will increase,” the ARRL concluded.

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, has emphasized that there is no broader plan on the League’s part to seek regulation by bandwidth.

The FCC has not yet assigned an RM number and put the League’s petition on public notice for comments, and there is no way to file comments until that happens.
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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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Should we change Part 97.1 (b)?

Part 97.1 sets out the “basis and purpose of amateur radio. Paragraph (b) of that section reads, “Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.”

I’ve long thought that we should petition that this paragraph be changed to something like, “Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the science and art of electronic communications.” After all, we do much more than just radio these days. And, what we do is more than an art, it’s science as well.

What do you think?

No-Nonsense Guide to Amateur Radio: VEs make taking the test easier

Back in the old days, you had to take amateur radio license exams at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) district office. I was pretty lucky in this regard. Since I lived in the Detroit area, and it was relatively easy to get to the FCC office in the Federal Building in downtown Detroit, where they gave the tests once per week.

Other guys weren’t so lucky. They had to travel a fair distance to take the test, sometimes paying to stay overnight in a hotel.

That changed in 1984 when Volunteer Examiners (VEs) took over the administration of amateur radio license tests. Now, VE teams administer tests all over the country, and it’s very easy to find a test session near you at a time that’s convenient for you.

When most people go looking for an exam session, they go to the ARRL website or the W5YI website

  • Anchorage Amateur Radio Club VEC (AL)
  • Central America CAVEC (AL)
  • Golden Empire Amateur Radio Society (CA)
  • Greater LA Amateur Radio Group (CA)
  • Jefferson Amateur Radio Club VEC
  • Laurel VEC (AZ, FL, IL, MD, MI, MS, NY, OH, PA, VA)
  • Milwaukee Radio Amateur’s Club VEC(WI)
  • MO-KAN VEC (KS, MO)
  • SanDARC-VEC (CA)
  • Sunnyvale VEC ARC, Inc. (CA)
  • W4VEC (CA, FL, GA, IN, MS, MO, NC, OK, PR, SC, TN, VA)
  • Western Carolina ARS VEC (NC, TN)
  • ARRL Executive Committee to meet March 9

    ARRL

    The ARRL Executive Committee will meet Saturday, March 9 in Irving, Texas. ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, serves as Chairman of the Executive Committee. Five Division Directors who are elected by the ARRL Board of Directors are also on the committee: Northwestern Division Director Jim Fenstermaker, K9JF; Central Division Director Dick Isely, W9GIG; Rocky Mountain Division Director Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT; Pacific Division Director Bob Vallio, W6RGG, and West Gulf Division Director David Woolweaver, K5RAV. ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, and ARRL First Vice President Rick Roderick, K5UR, are non-voting members of the Executive Committee.

    There are lots of interesting items on the agenda this time including:

    • 4.1.3. Consideration of changes to FCC Part 97 rules which inhibit or preclude encryption of transmissions and other regulatory impediments to emergency communications.
    • 4.1.8. ET Docket No. 10-236; Promoting Expanded Opportunities for Radio Experimentation and Market Trials under Part 5 of the Commission’s Rules and Streamlining Other Related Rules.

    Download it, read it, and let the directors know what you think.

    ITU offering free download of 2012 international regulations

    From the 2/7/13 issue of the ARRL Letter:

    ITUThe International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is offering an electronic version of the 2012 International Radio Regulations at no charge. These regulations incorporate the decisions of the World Radiocommunication Conferences of 1995 (WRC-95), 1997 (WRC-97), 2000 (WRC-2000), 2003 (WRC-03), 2007 (WRC-07) and 2012 (WRC-12), including all Appendices, Resolutions, Recommendations and ITU-R Recommendations incorporated by reference.

    While Article 25 of the International Radio Regulations defines the Amateur Radio Service, the regulations as a whole define the allocation of different frequency bands to different radio services, as well as the mandatory technical parameters to be observed by radio stations, procedures for the coordination and notification of frequency assignments made to radio stations by national governments and other procedures and operational provisions.

    The free download — as well as paper copies and a DVD — are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French and Russian. While the electronic version is available at no charge, the individual paper versions and the DVD containing versions in all six languages cost CHF 398 (approximately $438 USD). The free download is available through mid-2014.

    From my Twitter feed: ham hijinks, modernizing ham radio, ham helper

    K5KVNA new source for ham radio news of the funny variety: http://t.co/dC31DPie#hamhijinks #hamr

    Funny stuff. They ought to slow down, though, so they can maintain it over the long haul.

    yv5venet
    My Submission to FCC to Modernize Ham Radio Rules: Here’s my submission to FCC to modernize ham radio rules rega…http://t.co/zUCTVK1I

    Bruce Perens talks about rules for digital modes.

    KC8GRQ
    I didn’t know@HarborFreight sold a helping hands & solder pencil holder. Ill have to get one for my #hamr projects.http://t.co/Ux8ibEDi

    Apparently, it uses cheap LEDs, but KC8GRQ plans to replace them with high-intensity LEDs.

    News for amateurs driving in VA3/VE3

    I don’t quite get the sentence that read, “It is recommended that you carry a copy of your certificate and a copy of the exemption in your vehicle.” I’m guessing the certificate means license, but I don’t know how you’d carry a copy of the exemption, unless they mean a copy of the law that shows the exemptions……Dan

    RAC Bulletin 2012-071E – Distracted Driving Update – Ontario Regulations Changed 2012-12-22

    In light of the prorogation of the Ontario Legislature on October 15, 2012, the amateur radio community in Ontario has raised questions regarding the status of the 5-year extension to the amateur radio exemption in the Display Screens and Hand-Held Devices Regulations that was announced by Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli on September 24, 2012. Former RAC Honourary Legal Counsel, Steve Pengelly, VE3STV, has advised that prorogation would have had no effect on the announced extension because it was contained in a regulation passed by an order-in-council.

    To further address the concern, Radio Amateurs of Canada is pleased to inform Ontario hams that Ontario Regulation 253/12 has amended the amateur radio exemption sections of former Ontario Regulation 366/09. Specifically, the “January 1, 2013” portion of section 13(1) and the entirety of section 13(2) of Ontario Regulation 366/09 were struck out and replaced with section 3(1) and 3(2) of Ontario Regulation 253/12, stating the new January 1, 2018 deadline. The actual amended Ontario Regulation 366/09 can be found online as well.

    Radio Amateurs of Canada will continue to pursue a permanent exemption for Amateur Radio operators in Ontario. Similar exemptions already exist in many other provincial jurisdictions in Canada – thanks in part to the efforts of local amateurs and RAC’s national strategy to address distracted driving legislation.

    Radio Amateurs of Canada is Canada’s national voice for Amateur Radio. Our efforts not only promote the Amateur Radio Service but protect it from regulatory interference that may lead to less capability to provide emergency communications. Not already a RAC member? Why not join today at http://www.rac.ca and find out about the many benefits our members enjoy across the country and the world beyond.

    It is recommended that you carry a copy of your certificate and a copy of the exemption in your vehicle.

    Jeff Stewart, va3wxm – RAC Ontario South Director/Assistant Chairman – Ontario distracted driving committee on behalf of Bill Unger, VE3XT – RAC Director Ontario North – East – Chairman – Ontario distracted driving committee

    **—-**

    Vernon Ikeda – VE2MBS/VE2QQ
    Pointe-Claire, Québec
    RAC Blog Editor/RAC E-News/Web News Bulletin Editor