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

    ARRL Executive Committee Meeting Minutes, September 29, 2012

    A couple of days ago, the ARRL released the minutes of the September 29, 2012 executive committee meeting. Here are some notable items:

    • 4.1.5. Mr. Imlay informed the committee that the FCC is expected soon to release a Notice of Proposed Rule Making dealing with examination element credit for expired licensees, remote proctoring of examinations, and the ARRL petition (RM-11625) to allow amateur use of Time Domain Multiple Access (TDMA) emissions. The NPRM is expected to raise significant policy questions that will require consideration by the full Board of Directors. It was agreed that the Executive Committee will prepare an outline of the pros and cons of each item for circulation to the Board as a basis for discussion.
    • 4.2.5. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) include provisions mandated by Congress that place US satellite manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage and also prevent amateurs in the US from collaborating on satellite designs with their colleagues in other countries. The ARRL is monitoring developments that may point toward a resolution of the problem.
    • 4.2.7. The FCC’s RF exposure regulations have not been reviewed in many years, in part because the FCC does not consider itself to be the expert agency on health effects. The current regulations are based on studies conducted 20 years ago. There is a proceeding, ET Docket No. 03-137, that has been open and pending without action for almost a decade. A document to advance the proceeding reportedly is on circulation at the FCC and may be released soon.
    • 8.1. Mr. Sumner reported that the first ARRL elections to be conducted by electronic voting would begin on Monday, October 1 in the Hudson and Northwestern Divisions. Full Members in the two divisions with valid email addresses in the ARRL membership records will receive an email instructing them how to vote on a website. The other Full Members will receive a paper ballot but will have the option of voting via the website if they wish to do so. He noted that preparations for the elections have gone smoothly.

    I wonder if the two elections that I participated in would have turned out differently if there had been electronic voting, especially the one that I lost by only 12 votes. Reading the minutes can be pretty dry, but you should download and read them if you’re at all interested in what the ARRL is doing.

    Extra Class question of the day: Miscellaneous rules

    As the name of this section implies, it contains a hodgepodge of questions covering sometimes obscure rules. About the only way to get these right is to memorize the answers.

    The use of spread-spectrum techniques is a topic that comes up from time to time. Many amateurs feel that the rules are too restrictive. For example, 10 W is the maximum transmitter power for an amateur station transmitting spread spectrum communications. (E1F10) Only on amateur frequencies above 222 MHz are spread spectrum transmissions permitted. (E1F01)

    All of these choices are correct when talking about the conditions that apply when transmitting spread spectrum emission: (E1F09)

    • A station transmitting SS emission must not cause harmful interference to other stations employing other authorized emissions.
    • The transmitting station must be in an area regulated by the FCC or in a country that permits SS emissions.
    • The transmission must not be used to obscure the meaning of any communication.

    The rules governing the use of external amplifiers is also somewhat controversial. A dealer may sell an external RF power amplifier capable of operation below 144 MHz if it has not been granted FCC certification if it was purchased in used condition from an amateur operator and is sold to another amateur operator for use at that operator’s station. (E1F03) One of the standards that must be met by an external RF power amplifier if it is to qualify for a grant of FCC certification is that it must satisfy the FCC’s spurious emission standards when operated at the lesser of 1500 watts, or its full output power. (E1F11)

    There are some rules that spell out restrictions based on where a station is located. For example, amateur radio stations may not operate in the National Radio Quiet Zone. The National Radio Quiet Zone is an area surrounding the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. (E1F06) The NRAO is located in Green Bank, West Virginia.

    There is also a regulation that protects Canadian Land/Mobile operations near the US/Canadian border from interference. Amateur stations may not transmit in the 420 – 430 MHz frequency segment if they are located in the contiguous 48 states and north of Line A. (E1F05) A line roughly parallel to and south of the US-Canadian border describes “Line A.” (E1F04) There is a corresponding “Line B” parallel to and north of the U.S./Canadian border.

    As you might expect, there are some questions about not making any money from operating an amateur radio station. Communications transmitted for hire or material compensation, except as otherwise provided in the rules are prohibited. (E1F08) An amateur station may send a message to a business only when neither the amateur nor his or her employer has a pecuniary interest in the communications. (E1F07)

    This next question is a bit of a trick question. 97.201 states that only Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operators may be the control operator of an auxiliary station. (E1F12) It’s a trick question because there are also holders of Novice Class licenses even though no new Novice licenses have been issued for many years, and the number of Novice Class licensees dwindles every year.

    Communications incidental to the purpose of the amateur service and remarks of a personal nature are the types of communications may be transmitted to amateur stations in foreign countries. (E1F13)

    The FCC might issue a “Special Temporary Authority” (STA) to an amateur station to provide for experimental amateur communications. (E1F14)

    The CEPT agreement allows an FCC-licensed US citizen to operate in many European countries, and alien amateurs from many European countries to operate in the US. (E1F02)

    Extra Class question of the day: Station control

    An important concept in the rules governing amateur radio is the concept of station control and the control operator. The control operator is the licensed radio amateur who is responsible for the transmissions of a station, and the location of that operator is called the control point. There are three ways that a control operator can control a station: local control, remote control, or automatic control.

    Local control means direct manipulation of the transmitter by a control operator. (E1C07) So, when you were sitting in front of your radio, you are using local control.

    A remotely controlled station is a station controlled indirectly through a control link. (E1C01) A control operator must be present at the control point is the true statement about remotely controlled amateur stations. (E1C06) This is, of course, true for local control as well. 3 minutes is the maximum permissible duration of a remotely controlled station’s transmissions if its control link malfunctions. (E1C08)

    Automatic control of a station means the use of devices and procedures for control so that the control operator does not have to be present at a control point. (E1C02) The control operator responsibilities of a station under automatic control differs from one under local control. Under automatic control the control operator is not required to be present at the control point. (E1C03)

    Most repeaters are operated with automatic control. Only auxiliary, repeater or space stations are the types of amateur stations that may automatically retransmit the radio signals of other amateur stations. (E1C10) 29.500 – 29.700 MHz is the frequency band available for an automatically-controlled repeater operating below 30 MHz. (E1C09) No repeaters are allowed on any other HF band.

    An automatically controlled station may retransmit third party communications only when transmitting RTTY or data emissions. (E1C04) An automatically controlled station may never originate third party communications. (E1C05)

    Extra Class question of the day: Station restrictions and special operations

    Part 97 places many different restrictions on how amateurs can use their stations and specifies technical standards that amateur radio station must meet. For example, some rules set standards for spurious emissions A spurious emission is an emission outside its necessary bandwidth that can be reduced or eliminated without affecting the information transmitted. (E1B01) The rules also state that permitted mean power of any spurious emission relative to the mean power of the fundamental emission from a station transmitter or external RF amplifier must be at least 43 dB below for transmitters or amplifiers installed after January 1, 2003, and transmitting on a frequency below 30 MHZ is. (E1B11)

    There are also restrictions on erecting antennas. One factor that might cause the physical location of an amateur station apparatus or antenna structure to be restricted is if the location is of environmental importance or significant in American history, architecture, or culture. (E1B02) If you are installing an amateur station antenna at a site at or near a public use airport, you may have to notify the Federal Aviation Administration and register it with the FCC as required by Part 17 of FCC rules. (E1B06)

    The 60m band is one band that has a lot of weird restrictions not found on other ham bands. For example, the maximum bandwidth for a data emission on 60 meters is 2.8 kHz. (E1B05) The carrier frequency of a CW signal must be set at the center frequency of the channel to comply with FCC rules for 60 meter operation. (E1B07)

    Because RACES operation is quasi-governmental, there are some rules about RACES operations. Any FCC-licensed amateur station certified by the responsible civil defense organization for the area served may be operated in RACES.  (E1B09) All amateur service frequencies authorized to the control operator are authorized to an amateur station participating in RACES. (E1B10)

    Finally, there are some questions about random rules in this section:

    • The distance at which an amateur station must protect an FCC monitoring facility from harmful interference is 1 mile. (E1B03)
    • An Environmental Assessment must be submitted to the FCC must be done before placing an amateur station within an officially designated wilderness area or wildlife preserve, or an area listed in the National Register of Historical Places. (E1B04)
    • The amateur station must avoid transmitting during certain hours on frequencies that cause the interference if its signal causes interference to domestic broadcast reception, assuming that the receiver(s) involved are of good engineering design. (E1B08)
    • The highest modulation index permitted at the highest modulation frequency for angle modulation is 1.0. (E1B12)

    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.