Two Interesting Items from the 6/21/06 ARRL Letter

The June 21, 2006 ARRL Letter had two items that seemed worthy of comment. The first, “FCC SUSPENDS HAM LICENSES FOR FAILURE TO MAINTAIN MAILING ADDRESS” reported on the suspension of five licenses for failing to maintain a valid mailing address in the FCC database.

Part 97.23 of the Amateur Radio Service regulations require licensees to notify the FCC when they change addresses. The rule also says that “revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license may result when correspondence from the FCC is returned as undeliverable because the grantee failed to provide the correct mailing address.”

In all cases, the FCC was trying to contact the licensees about allegations of harmful interference, and in most of the cases, the licensees failed to responded to warning notices. In one case, the licensee simply turned in his license rather than respond to the warnings.

All of this is very puzzling to me. The report did not make the incidents sound all that serious, and the alleged interference could have been incidental and not malicious. Why didn’t these guys simply respond, say “I’m sorry,” and learn from the experience.

The second item is “FBI’S “INFRAGARD” PROGRAM COURTS AMATEUR RADIO AS ALLY.” InfraGard is an FBI program whose goal is to promote dialogue between the private sector and the FBI “concerning critical infrastructure protection issues.”

If you go to the InfraGard website, the first thing you note is that it’s really not clear what InfraGard really does. Their mission statement reads:

It is our goal to improve and extend information sharing between private industry and the government, particularly the FBI, when it comes to critical national infrastructures.

Does this sound like Big Brotherism or what?

Secondly, how is amateur radio supposed to fit into this mission? Amateur radio is, undoubtedly, valuable in providing communications during an emergency, but I don’t see where InfraGard is involved with emergency response. Rather, InfraGard’s goal is to prevent emergencies from happening in the first place.

Not only that, InfraGard is soliciting private companies to become members. and that “InfraGard members gain access to information that enables them to protect their assets…” Should amateur radio be used to protect the assets of corporations?

I hate to be skeptical, but it seems to me that there are already plenty of other organizations out there that we should serve before we get involved with something like InfraGard. Let’s concentrate our efforts on serving groups like the Red Cross and local emergency management departments—where we can really make an impact— rather than some amorphous federal program with vague goals.

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