Ham Radio IS NOT a Dying Hobby

I really hate it when people ask me, “Ham radio? Do people still do that?” Yes, of course, we still do that. Not only that, ham radio is growing. Below, is the latest press release from the ARRL. Now, granted, this release does hype up the statistics, but the facts are there. Almost double the number of new licenses were issued in 2009 than in 2005, and there are now almost 700,000 licensed radio amateurs in the U.S.

2009 Sees Surge of New Amateur Radio Licensees

Newington, Conn., Jan 7, 2010 – 2009 was a banner year for new people getting Amateur Radio licensees in the US. Amateur Radio, often called “ham radio,” has been growing over recent years, but 2009 was a record. According to the ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, the FCC issued more than 30,000 new ham radio licenses in 2009.

A total of 30,144 new licenses were granted in 2009, an increase of almost 7.5 percent from 2008. In 2005, 16,368 new hams joined Amateur Radio’s ranks; just five years later, that number had increased by almost 14,000 — a whopping 84 percent! The ARRL is the largest of several organizations trusted by the FCC to administer Amateur Radio license exams in the US.

“When looking at the statistics over the last 10 years, these are some the highest numbers we’ve seen,” explained Maria Somma, manager of the ARRL testing programs. “The total number of US amateurs has grown each year.” Currently there are 682,500 licensed Amateur Radio operators in the USA, an almost 3 percent rise over 2008. In 2008, there were 663,500 licensed amateurs; there were 655,800 in 2007. There are approximately 2.5 million Amateur Radio enthusiasts worldwide. It was also noted that a much higher percentage of licensees are going far beyond an entry-level license and earning higher class (and much more difficult) FCC Amateur Radio licenses. Despite the predictions of some commentators that Amateur Radio would be dying with the development of cell phones and the Internet, hams instead have taken and incorporated those digital and computer technologies into their wireless hobby, creating many new developments in the process.

Somma applauded all the volunteers whose “hard work and contribution of countless hours of time helps to ensure the future of Amateur Radio. I am delighted by these important achievements. 2009 was a very good year for Amateur Radio and I am excited by the promise of 2010.” For more information see http://www.Hello-Radio.org.

Wanna Work for the ARRL?

This came from the ARRL PR Mailing List:

Manager, Emergency Preparedness and Response

Primary Objective of Position:
Develop and maintain ARRL’s Emergency Communications and Emergency Preparedness functions, both internally and externally.

Accountability:
The Manager, Emergency Preparedness and Response reports to the Manager of the Membership and Volunteer Programs Department.

Qualifications:

  1. At least five years experience with amateur radio emergency communications in ARES or equivalent and completion of ARRL EmComm Level I course
  2. Experience as emergency communications professional and/or first responder desired, including knowledge of and experience with ICS and NIMS. Completion of FEMA Courses IC-100, IC-200, IC-700, IC-800 and IC-802 highly recommended
  3. General Class or higher Amateur Radio license required
  4. Ability to interface effectively with all levels of emergency management professionals.
  5. Experience managing volunteers
  6. Currently or previously staff member or volunteer for and/or knowledge of governmental and NGO emergency and disaster relief agencies
  7. High level presentation, verbal and writing skills
  8. Strong organizational ability
  9. Bachelor’s degree

Areas of Responsibility:

  1. Represent the ARRL with governmental and non-governmental emergency and disaster response organizations and partners, primarily at the National level, for planning, continuity and operational purposes.
  2. Develop plans, protocols, and procedures to address amateur radio’s role in emergency communications operations at the multi-section, regional, and national level.
  3. Lead and train ARRL Headquarters Incident Management Team to provide support and coordination for multi-section, regional or national incidents in the planning, mitigation and response phases.
  4. Maintain and report situational awareness through disaster intelligence collection during large disaster and emergency circumstances that require a multi-section, regional, or national response.
  5. Improve existing and create new operational solutions and processes for the ARES program including training and operational standards consistent with NIMS/ICS, response protocols in conjunction with ARRL staff and members of the Field Organization.
  6. Maintain and update EPR content on the ARRL Website.
  7. Represent ARRL at National (and regional, when requested) Amateur Radio organizations, served agency partner meetings, conventions and exercises.
  8. Review and assure compliance with existing MOUs with government and non-government agencies and served agency partners.
  9. Monitor ARES and nationwide Emcomm status and provide reports to management, Field leadership and to ARRL governance bodies, when requested.
  10. Provide assistance and guidance to Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators regarding emergency preparedness and response.
  11. Create original content and assure accuracy and timeliness of other content for QST articles, the ARES-E Newsletter and other media, as required.
  12. Establish annual plans and budgets for the EP&R branch and manage to those goals in conjunction with the MVP Manager.
  13. Other duties as assigned.

To apply, please e-mail your cover letter and resume to:
Monique Levesque
ARRL
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111
fax: 860-594-0298
email: mlevesque@arrl.org

Please include your salary history and/or requirements. ARRL is an equal opportunity employer.

Ham Radio Bill Passes Senate, Moves to House

At first, I wasn’t going to blog about this, but one of my readers persuaded me that it was noteworthy. This is a condensation of a news item on the ARRL website. Read the complete article, then contact your representative and tell him or her that you support this bill……Dan

On Monday, December 14, S 1755 — The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 — passed the Senate by unanimous consent; the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), S 1755, if passed, would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to undertake a study on emergency communications. S 1755 points out that “There is a strong Federal interest in the effective performance of Amateur Radio Service stations, and that performance must be given — (A) support at all levels of government; and (B) protection against unreasonable regulation and impediments to the provision of the valuable communications provided by such stations.”

Similar in language to HR 2160 (also called The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 that was introduced this past April by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee [D-TX-18]), S 1755 calls on DHS to undertake a study on the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief and then to submit a report to Congress no more than 180 days after the bill becomes law. The study shall:

  • Include a review of the importance of Amateur Radio emergency communications in furtherance of homeland security missions relating to disasters, severe weather and other threats to lives and property in the United States, as well as recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio licensees in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts and improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in planning and furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security initiatives.
  • Identify impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use regulations on residential antenna installations; and make recommendations regarding such impediments for consideration by other federal departments, agencies and Congress.

IARU Publishes Newsletter

The first newsletter from the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) in more than two years has just been published. The November 2009 issue of the IARU Electronic Newsletter has the following short articles:

  • WRC-12 Preparations Underway
  • IARU Administrative Council Meeting October, 2009
  • GAREC-09

You can sign up to receive future issues on the ARRL website.

Fall Frequency Measuring Test This Week

The W1AW Frequency Measuring Test (FMT) has taken several different formats over the past few years. This year, the ARRL returns to the “classic” FMT — measuring the frequency of an unmodulated carrier. Accurate frequency measurement is required of all hams for both regulatory compliance — “stay in the band!” — and operating convenience, particularly on the new digital modes. The W1AW FMT will run on November 12, 2009 at 0245 UTC (this is Wednesday evening, November 11, 2009 at 9:45 PM EST). It will replace any W1AW bulletin normally scheduled for that time. It is recommended that participants listen to W1AW’s transmissions prior to the event to get an idea of conditions to see which band (or bands) will be best for measurement purposes. Read more here.

FCC Reports on OO Activity

From the monthly (?) newsletter of Great Lakes Division Director, Jim Weaver, K8JE:

For many years, FCC did not provide feedback to ARRL on Official Observer (OO) reports it received. This has changed. Because of legal constraints, the feedback isn’t very detailed, but it is being given.

In June there were a total of 692 Official Observers (OOs) in the US. During June, ARRL received 10 recommendations for hams to begin the process to become OOs. OOs are still needed in parts of the Great Lakes Division as well as the country. If you are interested in becoming an OO, please contact your Section Manager, your Official Observer Coordinator or another League official.

A few of the situations OOs reported in June include:

  • Complaints about activities on or near 14.275 MHz; especially about
    the language used.
  • Reports from . . . Michigan regarding unlicensed hunters using 2 meter simplex frequencies. Information has been forwarded to the FCC.
  • Reports of boot-legged calls.
  • A report of “numbers stations” (Spanish speaking stations transmitting numbers) on 30 meters. Another report was of transmissions of 5 letter code groups.

No official actions were added to the FCC listing during June; however, several reports were handled off the record. Summaries of many FCC actions can be found on the FCC website.

The June report concluded, “As always, we thank you all for your time and efforts involved with the Official Observer program and we invite you to let us know of problems you hear on the air and possible resolutions through your regular monthly reports and e-mails.”

I’d like to salute the work that OOs do. One of these days, I’m even going to become one myself.

BPL Continues to Rear Its Ugly Head

Broadband over power lines, or BPL, hasn’t been in the news much lately, but make no mistake, there are companies out there still pushing it. Case in point is the article, “Is This the Moment for Broadband Over Power Lines?” by David Schneider, a senior editor for IEEE Spectrum.

Schneider writes:

One reason for the renewed interest in BPL is the Obama administration’s pledge to provide greater Internet access to underserved Americans, even those living in rural areas, where other means of providing broadband typically aren’t economical.

Last February’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide US $2.5 billion in loans and grants through one agency and $4.7 billion through another to expand broadband connections for residents of rural and underserved areas (as well as for public-safety agencies).

I’ve e-mailed my division director and ARRL HQ about this. I think the ARRL has done a good job of protecting our interests in this matter and hope the ham radio community would continue to support them in this battle. For more information on how BPL affects amateur radio (and other radiocommunication services, for that matter) and what you can do about it, visit the ARRL Web page, “Broadband Over Power Line (BPL) and Amateur Radio.”

2008 ARRL Annual Report Available

From the 7/2/09 edition of the ARRL Letter:

The ARRL Annual Report for 2008, now available online and in print, reviews the major events of the year and documents the renewed growth of both the ARRL and the activities of the Amateur Radio Service. In 2008, the ARRL experienced a growth in membership, ending the year with 154,627 members, an increase of 0.7 percent from 2007. The growth was the greatest among International members and in the League’s Northwestern, Rocky Mountain and Delta Divisions.

“As ARRL began 2008, the main question facing us was whether the growth spurt that the Amateur Radio Service had enjoyed the previous year would continue,” said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. “It did, with the number of new amateur licenses issued by the FCC rising to 28,066 — a 5 percent increase over 2007. The ten-year license term makes the total number of licensees a poor indicator of current trends, but after a period of annual declines beginning in 2003 this figure also increased by 1.2 percent during the year. Thus it appears that the regulatory changes that took effect in February 2007 [[meaning the complete elimination of the code test.....Dan]] are having more than a short-term impact.”

ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, said that through the ARRL’s history, the League’s strength has come from “the fact that its leaders have always had a clear understanding of our association’s mission. Our mission has been expressed in different words by different generations, but has remained fundamentally the same. Our current strategic plan states it in just six words: To advance and advocate Amateur Radio.”

Harrison further defined this strength, recalling that in 2005, “we identified four ‘pillars’ of our association: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, and Membership. Technology supports virtually everything we do, and as time went on we realized that it deserved its own pillar. So, with a bit of fanfare we unveiled technology as the ‘fifth pillar’ at the ARRL EXPO area of the 2008 Dayton Hamvention.”

Sumner said that 2008′s “most gratifying development” was the April decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the ARRL’s appeal of the FCC’s Broadband over Power Line (BPL) rules. “The Court panel found that FCC prejudice had tainted the rulemaking process and that the Commission had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not disclosing in full the staff studies on which the Commission relied,” he said. “The judges also found that the Commission had failed to justify its decision to apply to BPL systems an extrapolation factor that was designed for entirely different technologies and had summarily dismissed empirical data — submitted at the Commission’s invitation — that supported a different conclusion. The Court even awarded the ARRL some of our costs; this reimbursed only a small fraction of the total cost of the appeal, but it was a moral victory and underscored the fact that we had substantially prevailed in our appeal. Remarkably, at yearend the FCC still had done nothing to comply with the Court’s decision. Perhaps the change in administration will cause the FCC finally to meet its obligations.”

According to ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, “The Annual Report is not only useful for showing members the strength of the organization, but it is also a valuable tool in presentations to major public officials. At times they may know little about Amateur Radio, but when they see the quality of the annual report, even before they open it up, they know this is an organization to be taken very seriously. We are indeed a national association and very active.”

What Do You Think About the ARRL’s Website?

Yesterday, I got an interesting call from the marketing company that’s working on a redesign of the ARRL website. I had an interesting chat with a young woman there who asked a bunch of questions about how I use the site, but I’m guessing that this wasn’t a typical user interview. For one thing, I’d bet that I was the only one she interviewed that develops and maintains websites for a living. I may also be the only one who’s run for an ARRL board position.

I asked her quite a few questions myself, trying to get an idea of the direction that the redesign was going to take. My guess is that very few of the other people she interviewed asked those same questions.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think the ARRL website is OK. The design could use a little updating, but that’s pretty much always the case. I’m of the opinion that the graphic design of a website should be redone every two or three years.

The navigation could perhaps be simplified a little, but there’s so much information there that simplifying it will be difficult. I have used the site so much that I rarely have difficulty finding what I want. When I do, I use the search engine, which does a pretty good job of finding what I’m looking for.

The biggest problem that I see with the ARRL website is that much of the information is out of date. The two sections that I’m most familiar with are the clubs section (I used to be the Affiliated Club Coordinator for the MI Section) and the volunteer instructor sections. The content of both of those sections is showing its age.

This is really the crux of the problem. A fancy, new design is not going to solve the content problem. I’ve designed websites for clients that languished because they didn’t work at keeping the content up-to-date and useful. I fear that the new ARRL site, once launched, will meet the same fate. It will have a great new design, but the same old content.

When confronted with this, ARRL staffers usually fall back on the old saw, “We just don’t have enough resources.” I don’t doubt this, but when I volunteered my services to work on the instructor section, I was basically ignored. I said this in my election campaign, and I’ll reiterate it here. The ARRL must find a way to get the members more involved. My feeling is that there are lots of talented people out there who would be more than willing to work on ARRL projects, but the headquarters staff are just unwilling to get them involved. I’ve never been able to figure out why exactly, but my theory is that Newington has a severe case of the “not invented here” syndrome.

We also discussed how the ARRL might include some social networking features into its new website. This really is something that the ARRL should jump on, imho. The ARRL website should have a feature I’ll call “hambook,” something akin to facebook. Actually, there’s probably not even any need to develop this, but rather somehow use the facebook API to let facebook do most of the work. There are also other websites out there with social networking tools, such as ning.com, that the ARRL could use to promote social networking amongst hams.

The ARRL might even want to get crazy and do something along the lines of Twitter. After all, aren’t the DX spotting websites just an earlier, very specialized form of “tweeting”?Somehow, we should be able to expand on that concept and do some interesting things with the packet network and/or D-Star. This is obviously still a partly-baked idea.

At any rate, I’d love to hear from you on what you think about the current ARRL website and what kind of features the new website should have. I’m going to email the company working on the new website and maybe they’ll even monitor this post to hear what you have to say.