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.

Extra Class question of the day: automatic message forwarding; stations aboard ships or aircraft

Some amateur radio systems automatically forward messages for other amateur radio stations. Winlink is one such system. There is always a question of who is responsible when an automatically-controlled station forwards a message that violates FCC rules.

If a station in a message forwarding system inadvertently forwards a message that is in violation of FCC rules, the control operator of the originating station is primarily accountable for the rules violation, (E1A08) This is very similar to the situation where a repeater is used to send messages that violate FCC rules.

The first action you should take if your digital message forwarding station inadvertently forwards a communication that violates FCC rules is to discontinue forwarding the communication as soon as you become aware of it. (E1A09) This is also similar to what a repeater control operator should do if a repeater user is violating FCC rules.

Operating an amateur radio station on a ship or an airplane can be a lot of fun, but there are some rules that govern this operation. For example, if an amateur station is installed aboard a ship or aircraft, its operation must be approved by the master of the ship or the pilot in command of the aircraft before the station is operated. (E1A10) Any FCC-issued amateur license or a reciprocal permit for an alien amateur licensee is required when operating an amateur station aboard a US-registered vessel in international waters. (E1A11)

Even when operating from a ship, there must be a control operator. Any person holding an FCC-issued amateur license or who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation must be in physical control of the station apparatus of an amateur station aboard any vessel or craft that is documented or registered in the United States. (E1A13)

Extra Class question of the day: 60m operation

The 60 m band is one of the oddest amateur radio bands. One of the reasons for this is that the 60 meter band is the only amateur band where transmission on specific channels rather than a range of frequencies is permitted. (E1A07) Also, the rules for operation on the 60 meter band state that operation is restricted to specific emission types and specific channels. (E1A06)

The rules for power output are also a bit arcane. The maximum power output permitted on the 60 meter band is 100 watts PEP effective radiated power relative to the gain of a half-wave dipole. (E1A05) The rules are written this way to minimize interference between amateur radio operators, who are secondary users of this band, and the primary users, which are primarily government radio stations.

Extra Class question of the day: Frequency priviledges

When using a transceiver that displays the carrier frequency of phone signals, the highest frequency at which a properly adjusted USB emission will be totally within the band is 3 kHz below the upper band edge. (E1A01) So, with your transceiver displaying the carrier frequency of phone signals, you hear a DX station’s CQ on 14.349 MHz USB. Is it legal to return the call using upper sideband on the same frequency? No, the sidebands will extend beyond the band edge. (E1A03)

The reason for this is that the USB signal extends from the carrier frequency, which is the frequency that the transceiver is displaying, up 3 kHz. When you set the transceiver to 14.349 kHz, the upper sideband will extend up to 14.352 MHz, and because the amateur radio band stops at 14.350 MHz, some of the transmission will fall outside the band.

A similar thing happens, but in reverse, when you operate lower sideband, or LSB. When using a transceiver that displays the carrier frequency of phone signals,the lowest frequency at which a properly adjusted LSB emission will be totally within the band is 3 kHz above the lower band edge. (E1A02) With your transceiver displaying the carrier frequency of phone signals, you hear a DX station calling CQ on 3.601 MHz LSB. Is it legal to return the call using lower sideband on the same frequency? No, my sidebands will extend beyond the edge of the phone band segment. (E1A04)

The lower sideband will extend down 3 kHz from the carrier frequency. So, when your transceiver is set to 3.601 Mhz, your signal will extend down to 3.598 MHz, which is outside the phone band.

This is also a consideration when operating CW because a CW signal occupies a finite bandwidth. (C) With your transceiver displaying the carrier frequency of CW signals, if you hear a DX station’s CQ on 3.500 MHz, it is not legal to return the call using CW on the same frequency because the sidebands from the CW signal will be out of the band. (E1A12)

Extra Class question of the day: stay in band

When using a transceiver that displays the carrier frequency of phone signals, the highest frequency at which a properly adjusted USB emission will be totally within the band is 3 kHz below the upper band edge. (E1A01) So, with your transceiver displaying the carrier frequency of phone signals, you hear a DX station’s CQ on 14.349 MHz USB. Is it legal to return the call using upper sideband on the same frequency? No, the sidebands will extend beyond the band edge. (E1A03)

The reason for this is that the USB signal extends from the carrier frequency, which is the frequency that the transceiver is displaying, up 3 kHz. When you set the transceiver to 14.349 kHz, the upper sideband will extend up to 14.352 MHz, and because the amateur radio band stops at 14.350 MHz, some of the transmission will fall outside the band.

A similar thing happens, but in reverse, when you operate lower sideband, or LSB. When using a transceiver that displays the carrier frequency of phone signals,the lowest frequency at which a properly adjusted LSB emission will be totally within the band is 3 kHz above the lower band edge. (E1A02) With your transceiver displaying the carrier frequency of phone signals, you hear a DX station calling CQ on 3.601 MHz LSB. Is it legal to return the call using lower sideband on the same frequency? No, my sidebands will extend beyond the edge of the phone band segment. (E1A04)

The lower sideband will extend down 3 kHz from the carrier frequency. So, when your transceiver is set to 3.601 Mhz, your signal will extend down to 3.598 MHz, which is outside the phone band.

Changes to Euro EMC Directive Could Include Ham Kits

On the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), Region 1 website, Thilo Kootz, DL9KCE, Chairman EUROCOM Working Group, writes:

As part of the NEW LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK (NLF) ALIGNMENT PACKAGE the European Commission is reworking some directives. One of the affected directives is the EMC directive including some major changes. Most of them are neutral or even good from an amateur radio operators perspective. However there is one slight change pickaback carried, which very much affects us.

In detail:

The definition of the term ‘electromagnetic disturbance’ will include the wanted signal of a radio as a possible source. This is not in line with the radio regulation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and not in line with the vocabulary of the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC).

IARU Region 1 will respond to it with a letter soon.

However we strongly suggest, that you contact your local MEPs and tell them about this change in the EMCD, that is neither in line with the reasoning of the New Legislative Framework, nor does it help to improve protection of radio services or equipment.

The full text of Directive 1999/5/EC can be found here.

What always interests me in these cases is why these changes are being proposed. Do ham radio kits really generate that much EMI, or is some commercial interest behind this?

60m band rule changes coming

The FCC has released a new Report & Order (R&O) that will change rules for the 60m band. An article on the ARRL website summarizes the changes:

  • The frequency 5368.0 kHz (carrier frequency 5366.5 kHz) is withdrawn and a new frequency of 5358.5 kHz (carrier frequency 5357.0 kHz) is authorized.
  • The effective radiated power limit in the 60 meter band is raised by 3 dB, from 50 W PEP to 100 W PEP, relative to a half-wave dipole. If another type of antenna is used, the station licensee must maintain a record of either the antenna manufacturer’s data on the antenna gain or calculations of the antenna gain.
  • Three additional emission types are authorized. Data (emission designator 2K80J2D, for example, PACTOR-III), RTTY (emission designator 60H0J2B, for example, PSK31) and CW (150HA1A, i.e. Morse telegraphy by means of on-off keying). For CW, the carrier frequency must be set to the center frequency. For data and RTTY the requirement to transmit “only on the five center frequencies specified” may be met by using the same practice as on USB, i.e. by setting the suppressed carrier frequency of the USB transmitter used to generate the J2D or J2B emission to the carrier frequency that is 1.5 kHz below the center frequency.

The rules will take effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

American Morse Illegal on the Ham Bands?

As I’ve mentioned here, I’m half-heartedly trying to learn American Morse Code. Why? Well, while ham radio is keeping International Morse Code alive, there is not as big an outlet for American Morse. The Morse Telegraph Club (MTC) is perhaps the only organization keeping American Morse alive, but there are far fewer members of MTC as there are amateur radio operators who use Morse Code.

Now, I had heard of some amateurs using Americian Morse on the air, but not only are they few and far between, the American Morse that you would hear on the air is not the same as clicks and clacks of a telegraph sounder. And, now, on top of that, it is apparently illegal for amateur radio operators to use American Morse Code on the air.

This was recently brought to my attention on MTC mailing list, slowspeedwire. Chip, N3IW, noted:

Also, for US amateur radio operators we cannot legally use American Morse on the air. That’s because the FCC has defined the CW mode as using International Code only. There is no legal mode that can use American Morse on the air because of that definition.

Being curious about this, I tried to find out where this was so defined, but was unable to and asked for a clarification. In response, Jim, WB8SIW, MTC president, said:

The issue of the legality of American Morse on the ham bands is a fairly recent development. As I understand it, the issue arose when someone at the NCVEC conference asked a representative of the FCC if the use of American Morse Code on Amateur Service frequencies was legal. The FCC representatives present considered the question and stated that, in their opinions, the use of American Morse was illegal because Part 97 defines telegraphy as the standard International Morse Code.

This statement was reiterated and supported by Gary Johnston, W3BE, who writes a FCC rules column for the QCWA and perhaps other publications. Mr. Johnston has gone on record as being unequivicolly opposed to the use of the Amercan Morse Code on the ham bands. While he is retired from the FCC and his opinion has no official weight, the fact that he has pronounced it illegal influenes many radio amateurs.

I had some correspondence with Mr. Johnston in which I outlined the history of the use of American Morse on the ham bands and argued a contrary opinion. The result was essentially a terse note in response, which, in my opinion, I can only describe as being intended to “put me in my place.”

A couple of points are probably in order, however:

First, no one has ever tested the opinion that American Morse is illegal through a test case under the Administrative Law process. However, I suspect few of us have the time or money to do so if we received a Notice of Apparent Violation.

Second, the old rule of government regulation stands. When one asks a government agency to rule on a hypothetical issue, one will nearly always obtain the most restrictive opinion. Someone made the mistake of asking if it was legal, and, as a result, we have now been told that it likely is.

Still, I was not satisified, and because some of Johnston’s proclamations on the rules irk me so much that I can’t bear to read his column anymore, I searched again through the rules. This time, I found references to International Morse Code in 97.307(f)(9) and 97.307(f)(10), and those parts referred to the use of International Morse Code by Novices and Technicians. I also found part 97.305(a), which says, “An amateur station may transmit a CW emission on any frequency authorized to the control operator.” It does not, however, specify that the CW emission be in International Morse Code.

After posting this, to the mailing list, N3IW did point me at the correct parts. He wrote:

The definition of CW and MCW are found in Part 97.3(c)(1) and 97.3(c)(4):

Part 97.3(c) The following terms are used in this part to indicate emission types. Refer to Sec. 2.201 of the FCC Rules, Emission, modulation and transmission characteristics, for information on emission type designators.
(1) CW. International Morse code telegraphy emissions having designators with A, C, H, J or R as the first symbol; 1 as the second symbol; A or B as the third symbol; and emissions J2A and J2B.
(4) MCW. Tone-modulated international Morse code telegraphy emissions having designators with A, C, D, F, G, H or R as the first symbol; 2 as the second symbol; A or B as the third symbol.

So, there you have it. These two parts conclusively define CW and MCW as being International Morse Code. It seems kind of silly to me that American Morse is not allowed, given that it’s such a well-defined code and that the rules allow the transmission of far more exotic codes using the digital modes. Anyone want to draft a petition to change the rules?

Are You in Control?

With Field Day just two days away, I thought it might be a good idea to review the concept of the control operator. It seems to me that there’s some misconceptions out there about this topic, and a lot of amateur radio clubs get a little loosey-goosey with the concept of the control operator on Field Day.

So, the question is what constitutes a control point? How close does a control operator need to be?

I liked the reply of Tim, N9PUZ. He wrote:

I can provide one opinion.

I am the trustee for W9SPI, the call sign for our local ARES group. One of our board members is a volunteer ARRL legal counsel, and his opinion is that since ultimately I am responsible for operations carried out under that call sign, I and I alone have the final decision on how to interpret what constitutes a “control operator.”

It is my position that a control operator needs to be able to monitor/observe first hand how the particular station is being operated and be close enough that he/she can immediately take it off the air if there is a problem with either equipment or the person physically operating. As for “how close?”, I like to see the CO close enough that they can reach across the table, walk across the room or tent, reach down and disconnect the power, etc. If they need to go to the porta-potties, head out to their car, go to the food tent, etc. then someone else with the appropriate level of license needs to become the CO for a while.

I think it’s perfectly okay for there to be a lot of control operators and just note who is in charge if it changes a lot.

I’ve seen some pretty loose interpretations of “control operator” at some Field Day events. I have heard some clubs say that as long as there is one Extra class operator within the circle (1,000 ft?) that everyone on site can operate with Extra class privileges. Not on my watch.

Another ham expressed a more practical viewpoint:

Many control operators trust the operators that are operating stations under their supervision. If I’m trustee, and I know that I’ve got a bunch of people that I trust either operating or watching over other operators, I feel that I’ve fulfilled the requirements of the regulations. Do I feel that I can adequately stop transmissions if I’m a half mile away in an adequate time? Sure.

There’s not that much difference in the control of an HF station and the control of a repeater station. As long as everyone is operating within the designated parameters, the FCC stays happy.

This has been discussed and fought over thousands of times for many years, and I’ve yet to hear a control operator or trustee chastised by the FCC for any reason, except for flagrant and repeated violation of the rules.

He’s quite right to say that no one’s been cited for a rules violation, at least I can’t think of anyone who’s been cited, but I’m not sure that make it “right.”

The relevant rules are 97.103(a) and (b). They read:

Station licensee responsibilities. –
(a) The station licensee [In the case of a club callsign, the licensee is the trustee...Dan] is responsible for the proper operation of the station in accordance with the FCC Rules. When the control operator is a different amateur operator than the station licensee, both persons are equally responsible for proper operation of the station.
(b) The station licensee must designate the station control operator. The FCC will presume that the station licensee is also the control operator, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records.

So, in the end, from a practical point of view, if you are the trustee of a club call sign being used during Field Day, I think it’s a matter of how much you trust the operators that will be using the call sign. In none of the Field Day operations that I’ve been part of has the trustee designated specific control operators, nor have the control operators been recorded anywhere.

That being the case, the full responsibility falls on the trustee. Should something bad happen, he or she would be completely responsible. That’s something to consider if, like me, you’re the trustee of a call sign being used on Field Day.

FCC Fines Ham $4k

In an article on pirate radio broadcasters being fine, Radio World threw in this report about a Philadelphia amateur radio operator also being penalized:

Another fine is in a ham radio case. The commission affirmed a proposed fine of $4,000 against Jose Torres for operating his amateur station on an unauthorized frequency, 26.71 MHz. Torres is the licensee of Amateur Extra Class station N3TX in Philadelphia. The agency says he’d been warned about not operating on that frequency and fined $4,000 in 2009. He asked that the fine be reduced or cancelled, telling agents he wasn’t home during the alleged unauthorized operations in 2008 and submitted cellphone records to support his claim; Torres also submitted three years of federal tax returns to bolster his argument of an inability to pay. The FCC didn’t buy his arguments; field agents say they heard his voice on the unauthorized transmissions and that the cellphone records don’t prove he wasn’t at home, only that he wasn’t using his landline at the time.

I wonder why he was operating on 26.71 MHz. That’s not even in the Citizen’s Band.