Tag Archives: Emcomm

Do You Like ARES? A Question Posed.

About three weesk ago in the midst of separating the physical property of the departing emergency communications group from our main radio club the DEC suggested that the local radio club had a dislike for ARES.

More correctly he asked us why the club had concerns about ARES?

With the para-professionalization, the creation of the communications foot soldier, through the organize groups there emerges a natural conflict with the hobbyist ham interested in more than one aspect of the hobby.

The paraprofessional is interested in what classes they taken, the drills they have participated in, they’re ranking within the organization, and their served agencies.

The hobbyist usually has much wider interests, perhaps working DX, or collecting counties, trying to work all states, experimenting with a new digital mode, home brewing their own equipment, they be perhaps working QRP, or collecting by IOTA islands, or any one of 1000 other interests. Within the group of interest may be in interest in emergency communications, but this usually is not the overriding reason why they’re participating in the hobby.

Perhaps the para-professionalization is a manifestation of the black box — appliance user — mentality. This isn’t necessarily bad, and I do not mean it to be pejorative, but it is a mentality where results become the focus with less interest or joy is put in the process of getting there.

The amateur radio traditions of a full interest group usually include many of the traditions that led to the technology that an emergency group uses. Search and rescue is often practiced by foxhunters. The digital modes first came from experimentation — an application of commercial grade technology at the hobbyist level. The ubiquitous repeater was a technological brainchild with a more general use.

Amateur radio has always been ready to provide community service in time of emergency. However historically it tended to be a self led effort, rather than a served agency structured effort. There is little doubt that over time the pendulum both ways between ad hoc and formalize emergency communications by radio amateurs, but for some years the ARRL seemed to be solidly in control of training, doctrine, and coordination of the organized radio amateurs emergency communication experience.

That dynamic has certainly changed. With the FCC speaking out on employee/employer situations and the announced restructure of the league emergency communications courses along government lines, the pendulum has swung to one side very far indeed.

While part 97 does provide for expediency based utilization of frequency allocations during a true emergency, it is very clear that it never subordinates one amateur to another, or one group of amateurs to another.

This fundamental, basic, obvious equality of each individual amateur in the eyes of the FCC seems to escape some of the people involved in emergency communications. Of course there are exceptions, the presidential level decree to activate the radio amateur civilian emergency service being one, or the expediency based justification for extraordinary operation in a true emergency being another, but during drills, day-to-day operations, or even in planning one amateur is equal to another.

This DEC was clear that the emergency communications organizations are never answerable to a club. Likewise a club is never answerable to an external organization of fellow hams. Even our work with repeaters is called “coordination” and acknowledges that there are possibilities outside of being dictated to.

So back to the question we were asked. I would answer “it really doesn’t matter, as in a nonemergency situation they have zero effect on my participation in this hobby.”

Outside of the true emergency, in which case again as a radio amateur responding to an emergency I to would be allowed any and all use of frequencies or techniques to prevent the loss or risk of loss of life — let me emphasize there is not a monopoly unless the very high level directive ordering non-radio amateur civilian emergency service stations off the air is given — that every amateur and non-amateur has the same in emergency right to operate.

Again outside of that limited situation where the government has taken over control of the airwaves every amateur is created the same right the FCC and remains the same.

It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” — Voltaire

This may be an inconvenient truth and one that causes much argument, as a drill is not an emergency, a plan is only a plan and a nonemergency. In the end it is the able and willing radio amateur that makes both emergency communications on amateur frequencies and general club activities a possibility.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Emcomm Professionalization Marches On

Have you drank the Emcomm Koolaid?

Have you drank the Emcomm Koolaid?

As an ARRL Emcomm Level I, II & III Field Instructor/Mentor/Examiner I’m included on the ARRL’s related communications.

The program is doing a major change, and just look at the list of courses they expect someone to make time to take – courses that do not have very much to do with Radios BTW, but instead are our Government’s ideas being imposed by our organization.

As an employer I would be hard pressed to ask this level of coursework not directly related to our task at hand, but for Volunteers it seems very unlikely that as hobbyists that we could really ask people to complete a list that includes:

  • ICS-100
  • ICS-200
  • ICS (NIMS)-700
  • IS-800
  • IS-240
  • IS-241
  • IS-250
  • IS-1
  • IS-288
  • IS-244
  • IS-120.a
  • IS-130
  • IS-139

and, get this – drops the requirement to hold an FCC Radio License to be an ARRL Emcomm Team Member or leader!!

Notice that you now need “permission” to train from your Section Manager!

That the ARRL is no longer driving the “Emcomm Bus” is confirmed when deference to FEMA becomes so complete as to tell us: “Please note: the list of FEMA course as prerequisites, as well as those referenced internally within the course, may change as FEMA makes changes to its course offerings or the course is modified to introduce new content.”

In all fairness this is for the advanced (combined old Level II & III) Emcomm level, but that the leadership has been turned over to non-ham served agencies is evident at the Basic Level as well.

Here is the announcement:

To: Continuing Education Program EmComm Mentors and Instructors

Greetings!
The new Emergency Communications course is taking shape. Here are the details.

Overview:
The content of the new emergency communications course is undergoing final review and the decisions about what shape this new course will take have been made. I’d like to update you on our progress, what changes are being made and what may be expected of you.

As we have said previously, the former Level 2 and Level 3 Emergency Communications courses are being updated and combined into one new course. The new course will focus on emergency communications training for leaders and managers. The title of the new course is Public Service and Emergency Communications Management for Radio Amateurs.

We anticipate launching this new course in January 2010. It has been developed in a lesson format and will be posted on our website and, as such, it will be viewable by any ARRL member. Members will need only log in to the ARRL website to see the course material. It will not be a mentored course. Later on, we may provide a mentored online forum on our website where students can post questions about course topics and receive answers from a mentor.

Requirements for Course Completion:
The new course requires that the student has previously completed the Level 1/Basic course, certain FEMA courses and has some experience with Amateur Radio and emergency communications. Those who desire to receive a course completion certificate for this new course (which we refer to in shorthand as “Advanced EmComm”) will first need to document that they have satisfied a list of prerequisites. After providing the necessary documentation, applicants will be required to pay an enrollment fee of $35 to gain access to the course’s final exam. This fee will help to offset the cost of developing the course and for the online testing service as well as costs for administrative support.

The course prerequisites to be verified include:
An Amateur Radio license,
Completion of ARRL’s Level 1/Basic course, and
Completion of FEMA courses that are background for this course.

FEMA prerequisites:
ICS-100 (basic ICS)
ICS-200 (supervisory)
ICS (NIMS)-700
ICS-300, a classroom course, is also highly recommended, but not required

Candidates for the course completion certificate will also be required to document completion of additional FEMA courses that are integrated into the Advanced EmComm course curriculum. These include:

IS-800 (National Response Framework)
FEMA IS-240, Leadership & Influence
FEMA IS-241, Decision Making & Problem Solving
FEMA IS-250, Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF15), External Affairs
FEMA IS-1, Emergency Manager, An Orientation to the Position
IS-288, The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management
IS-244, Developing and Managing Volunteers
FEMA IS-120.a, An Introduction to Exercises
FEMA IS-130, Exercise Evaluation and Improvement Planning
FEMA IS-139, Exercise Design
Please note: the list of FEMA course as prerequisites, as well as those referenced internally within the course, may change as FEMA makes changes to its course offerings or the course is modified to introduce new content.

Applicants will also need to supply a reference from their Section Manager, or his or her designee, stating the reason for the applicant’s participation. Section Managers will take into account the applicant’s relevant experience or role within emergency communications and whether they are in good standing within the amateur radio community. Once applicants have documented that these requirements have been met and they have paid the course evaluation fee, they will receive access to complete the online exam.

We are also making provision for unlicensed individuals who perform an official role as an emergency responder to earn the course completion certificate if they desire. To apply to take the final exam and earn the course completion certificate, these individuals will need to obtain a “waiver” recommendation from the local ARRL Section Manager. This waiver request should include a description of the position of responsibility the applicant holds in an emergency response organization. Note that these individuals will need to be an ARRL member to obtain access to the course on the ARRL website. Later on, when other media formats are available there may be additional ways to access the course materials.

Course Presentation:
Because of the nature of the course content and its fluidity with regard to decisions of the Federal government, as well as its internal links to reference material from non-ARRL sources, we are reluctant to produce copies of the course in media which are fixed in time. Nevertheless, later on, we are considering publishing the Advanced course in other media formats (print, CD, etc.), and depending on demand, may also build an infrastructure for field classroom instruction of the course. However, all course completion exams will be conducted online and course completion certificates will be issued online. We will notify Section Managers of the names of those who earn the course completion certificate.

Status of Current Mentors and Instructors:
All current EmComm online Mentors and Field Instructors who intend to continue instructing the Level 1/Basic course, as well as any who foresee conducting classroom instruction for the new Advanced course, will need to take this course and earn the course completion certificate.

All EmComm Mentors and Field Instructors will need to earn this course completion certificate on or before December 31, 2010 to continue in the role of Emergency Communications Mentor or Field Instructor. This is one of a few new qualifying requirements for Mentors and Field Instructors that will be phased in during 2010 as we endeavor to insure more consistency and control over EmComm instruction.

Mentors and Field Instructors who have been active during the past 2 years—since January 2008—will be able to enroll in the course evaluation component of the new Advanced course free of charge.

We have been reevaluating our EmComm training goals and processes as we have been configuring this new course. There were many opinions and constraints to be considered, but we believe we now have an excellent training program about to be unveiled which will position Amateur Radio well for the future. We appreciate your patience.

73,
Debra

Debra Johnson, K1DMJ
Education Services Manager
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio™
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111-1494
(860) 594-0296
Fax: (860) 594-0259
djohnson@arrl.org

The ARRL CE Program has not been updated past dropping EC-002 & EC-003 from the offering. http://www.arrl.org/cce/courses.html (As an aside a number of other courses have been withdrawn over time for various reasons or for repackaging as a purchased course at the ARRL Store).

More as the ARRL explains the moves to a FEMA based Emcomm program.

73

Steve
K9ZW

 

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It Must Be Something in the Air – Radio Clubs & Emcomm

It must be something in the air, the obvious differences between various amateur radio hobby groups.

Wait — perhaps that is it? amateur radio hobby groups — there we go, it is that combination of words.

Amateur — the nonprofessional, the enthusiast, the Explorer, the experimenter, the advocate.

Radio — that use of the electronic ether to communicate.

Hobby — a pursuit of passion, a non-employment enjoyment, and adventure in learning for the joy of learning.

Groups — a club, an organization, an observable affiliation, and alignment.

There does seem to be a difference between a general all disciplines amateur radio group and the group singly focused on one aspect, one small subset, of the greater hobby.

I might liken it to the difference between being in a big tent — a Chautauqua like encompassing tent — or being in an isolated command tent back in my Army Field days.

Amateur radio emergency service and radio amateurs civilian emergency service both are disciplines, important but small disciplines within the greater amateur radio hobby.

There is little doubt that when served agencies are in true emergency need that they find some comfort and utility in having willing radio groups to fulfill their communications needs.

However does become the fashion of these days for that comfort to be more economic than practical. The economic side being that the volunteers are unpaid, usually bring their own equipment or heavy equipment available from various grants, and are quite willing to do drills and other training on their own, whereas employee base communications would be phenomenally more expensive to develop and maintain — not to mention limitations on available frequencies.

In their own interest of containing liability and improving interoperability served agencies have pushed a professionalization of the amateur. A professionalization that in the way of most oxymorons doesn’t seem to work.

While perhaps it does work a bit, but it doesn’t seem to work quite as envisioned — the unintended consequences being a disharmony among radio amateurs, an unrealistic expectation of some sort of priority for frequencies in the event of an emergency, an effort by those involved to subvert wider general amateur radio hobby groups into their ideals of emergency radio communications.

This is not just at the street level — that the club level is not alone in experiencing this conflict — but is very observable right to the highest levels. The current arguments over whether the FCC should selectively choose to not enforce regulations existing on the books or whether they should enforce them to the nth degree, have greatly replaced the ongoing code/no code argument that had preoccupied amateur radio creating factions over the last several years.

In speaking with leadership in the various emergency communications groups they have not even been properly briefed on how to handle the waiver process, the full background on why the rules exist and need to be enforced, or what the impact is for their members who also happen to be employees of served agencies. Part of this may be the very newness of the awareness that the law had provided for regulations of this nature.

But the card is continuing wishful thinking and lack of consultation with true professionals while operating in areas that could cost a person not only a significant fine, but perhaps their amateur radio license.

To have a lack of understanding in this area isn’t surprising given the general confusion in emergency communications over insurance, command structure, whether an emergency communicator works for their emergency communication organization or the served agency, or how to deal with dual hat situations.

It isn’t easy — none of it’s easy — but that doesn’t excuse us in the eyes of the regulations and enforcement that well could follow if we make it personal operating error. in the end it would be the amateur who may well have to defend themselves from economic loss and potential loss of their hobby.

I have also had emergency communications leadership correctly point out that with the direction of professionalization of the amateur emergency communications, the compatibility of a general radio club and in emergency communications organization is minimal. They have told me they are suggesting that the groups develop distinct separate leadership, identity, legal organization, books, tax ID numbers, and operate in separate fashion. They hoped that these separate entities would be cooperative and mutually supportive, but made no bones that in their mind emergency communications held an ultimate trump card, and must prevail over general amateur radio in their vision of that cooperation.

In other words that’s nice talk for an open plan to displace the hobbyist in favor of paraprofessional mock amateur radio operations, under a unilateral implementation of their idea of greater good.

What a load of rubbish — what a disservice to their fellow radio amateurs and the history that brought this hobby to this point.

It was not some paraprofessional subgroup that our country look to in each of the world wars for radioman in the military, it was not some paraprofessional specialized team in specialized DF bunkers on the coasts that are Coast Guard and Navy have looked to to assist over the years, nor has it been some select paraprofessional group that are various military services have looked to for civilian support for their radio amateur communication efforts.

Of course they will speak of the needs in a true emergency, that sort of emergency where every one of us would be willing to help. But to limit response to paraprofessionals many of us, despite having all the technical and accreditation qualifications, we’ll find ourselves less able to help.

And of course when undertaking a drill there is no legal claim to “true emergency” and their claim to priority becomes hogwash.

Many of you have seen some of these paraprofessionals, once a year drill warriors whose brand-new pristine radios and manuals have suffered more wear from storage than from use, usually a mixture of retirees, the medically retired, and the perennial unemployed, along with a spattering of a few good souls. These drill warriors are the sorts who seldom actually hear on the radio, and if you do it is likely to be just one mode or perhaps even only on one repeater.

Luckily there are exceptions, the fellows who have full station capability and are on all the time, but in many groups they are expected to carry a heavy load being not only the only seasoned operators, but among the few technically orientated who can say quote “I have done that” when asked for solutions.

What does it mean for the rest of us? If one does not want to become a paraprofessional, nor wants to compromise existing commitments to family or to other organizations to become a dual hat wearing person, or simply has greater responsibilities, what do we do?

Some time ago the concept of Freecom was launched quietly among the amateur radio community.

This is a simple idea of being fully capable of emergency operations, of handling traffic, and having a calling to a higher level of love of country, freedom, and the Constitution.

It is an ideal that incorporates the traditional traffic handling with the emergent awareness that without our freedom, our inalienable rights, and are deference to the Constitution we are lost.

It has been proposed back in oath, like the oath the military and police oath takers affirm, dictation mode would become a major component of this new amateur radio initiative.

Actually it is a very old amateur radio initiative that is made new only in contrast of the darker side of the amateur — paraprofessional.

If one reads amateur radio books from the 20s 30s 50s and 60s you will find a self sufficient radio amateur portrayed in a way that has not remained fashionable. Technology has brought us to the point where we have radio amateurs who are “appliance operators” and have neither in the interest nor in many cases the ability to move beyond.

Our historic self-sufficient radio amateur built what they couldn’t buy, pioneered what has not yet been invented, talk themselves what had not yet made it to university lectures, and many as a result became not only pioneers and leaders in amateur radio but also became historic businessman and inventors of the wide renown.

It is not that we are completely lacking of the spirit today, but rather that it has been subverted by the enslavement to a served agency dictate of emergency communications.

There is a new Yahoo group covering Freecom and I intend to cover it further here. I will be adding a tab at the top of the page for Freecom as a shortcut to posts concerning a self-sufficient perspective of the radio amateur.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FCC Speaks on Emcomm – “Get a Waiver”

From the ARRL this morning: http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2009/10/20/11151/

FCC Issues Public Notice on Amateur Service Communication During Government Disaster Drills

On Tuesday October 20, 2009 the FCC released a Public Notice clarifying the Commission’s rules relating to the use of Amateur Radio by licensed amateurs participating in drills and exercises on behalf of their employers. Entitled Amateur Service Communications During Government Disaster Drills, the Public Notice addresses participation by paid employees of organizations taking part in drills.

The Public Notice — DA 09-2259 — affirms that the Commission’s rules “specifically prohibit amateur stations from transmitting communications ‘in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer.'”

ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, offered “This Public Notice is intended to clarify a difficult issue. A wide range of unofficial — and frankly some incorrect — interpretations have been offered on this topic in various public forums recently. DA-09-2259 is the official FCC notice on this issue. Though issued jointly by the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), the Enforcement Bureau (EB) and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) under delegated authority from the Commission, the Notice makes it clear that WTB is the Bureau at the FCC with jurisdiction over the Amateur Radio Service rules and their interpretation.”

The Public Notice states that, in order to facilitate participation by employees who wish to engage in government-sponsored drills and emergency exercises on behalf of their employers, a waiver can be requested from the WTB by the government agency sponsoring the drill or exercise (and not by the individual who wishes to participate in the drill or exercise). Such a request must follow established procedures for requesting a temporary waiver of the Commission’s rules. The government entity conducting the drill must include in its waiver application the following information:

  • When and where the drill will take place,
  • Identification of the amateur licensees expected to transmit amateur communications on behalf of their employer,
  • Identification of the employer(s) on whose behalf the amateur(s) will be transmitting, and
  • A brief description of the drill.

“It should be noted,” Henderson said, “that the waiver request must be filed and acted upon in advance of the drill. The waiver must be actually granted by the Commission before the amateurs participate in the drill. It is not enough to apply — the waiver must be granted first.:

The public notice also emphasizes that in an actual emergency, the Part 97 rules “provide that an amateur station may use any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and the immediate protection of property when normal communications systems are not available. In those specific circumstances, rule waiver is not necessary.”

In September, the ARRL released guidelines that address numerous aspects of the issue of business communications in the Amateur Service.

Here is the FCC Notice: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-09-2259A1.pdf

AMATEUR SERVICE COMMUNICATIONS DURING GOVERNMENT DISASTER DRILLS

Transmissions by amateur stations participating in government disaster drills must comply with
all applicable amateur service rules. While the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary
noncommercial communications service, particularly with respect to providing emergency
communications, is one of the underlying principles of the amateur service,1 the amateur service is not an
emergency radio service. Rather, it is a voluntary, non-commercial communication service authorized for
the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by licensed
persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.2

State and local government public safety agencies occasionally conduct emergency preparedness
or disaster drills that include amateur operations. Some entities, such as hospitals, emergency operations
centers, and police, fire, and emergency medical service stations, have expressed interest in having their
employees who are amateur station operators participate in these drills by transmitting messages on the
entity’s behalf. The Commission’s Rules, however, specifically prohibit amateur stations from
transmitting communications “in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest,
including communications on behalf of an employer.”3

Given the public interest in facilitating government-sponsored emergency preparedness and
disaster drills, we take this opportunity to provide a clear process for requesting a waiver, and the
information that we require in order to consider granting such a request.4 Waiver requests should be
submitted to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau by the government entity conducting the drill, and
must provide the following information: (1) when and where the drill will take place; (2) identification of
the amateur licensees expected to transmit amateur communications on behalf of their employers; (3)
identification of the employers on whose behalf they will be transmitting; and (4) a brief description of
the drill.

We emphasize that the filing of a waiver request does not excuse compliance with the rules
while that request is pending. The waiver must be requested prior to the drill, and employees may not
transmit amateur communications on their employer’s behalf unless the waiver request has been granted.

In an actual emergency, the Commission’s Rules provide that an amateur station may use any
means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection

with the immediate safety of human life and the immediate protection of property when normal
communication systems are not available.5 In those circumstances, rule waiver is not necessary.

For further information regarding matters discussed in this Public Notice, contact William T.
Cross of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Mobility Division, at (202) 418-0680,
William.Cross@fcc.gov.

By the Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security
Bureau; and Chief, Enforcement Bureau.

1 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.1(a). See also Recommendations of the Independent Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane
Katrina on Communications Networks, Order, EB Docket No. 06-119; WC Docket No. 06-63, 22 FCC Rcd 10541,
10576 ¶ 111 (2007) (noting that the amateur radio community played an important role in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina and other disasters).
2 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.3(a)(4).
3 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.113(a)(3) (emphasis added).
4 See 47 C.F.R. § 1.925.

-FCC-

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ARRL Speaks on Paid Employee Emcomm

A few days ago the ARRL released a position paper on Paid Employee Emcomm which supports the present interpretation that the rules as they are do not legally provide for Paid Employee Emcomm outside of during an actual emergency, and even then with caveats. Even if “off the clock” the FCC has said you cannot operate if it benefits your employer:

The ARRL release reads:

Page 1
Commercialization of Amateur Radio: The Rules, The Risks, The Issues
Introduction
From its founding in 1914 to the present day, the American Radio Relay League has fostered Amateur Radio public service and emergency communications activities. The League encourages organizations engaged in disaster relief to make appropriate use of Amateur Radio. Further, the League welcomes new, public-service minded licensees from all occupational and professional backgrounds.
The ARRL believes that the Amateur Radio Service and our emergency communications activities flourish best in an atmosphere of respect for and compliance with the FCC‟s Rules. These Rules provide for more flexibility than is typical of other radio services. They guide our operations and assist us in protecting the spectrum allocated to the Amateur Radio Service from encroachment by commercial interests.
This document is not intended to discourage anyone from becoming an Amateur or to discourage any organization from promoting an interest in Amateur Radio among its employees and volunteers. Nor does it signal any change in the League‟s long-standing devotion to public service and emergency communications. Its objective is to educate both Amateurs and the organizations we serve about what is permitted under the FCC‟s current Rules and to assist Amateurs in making reasoned decisions about the appropriateness of services we may offer to organizations in our communities.
Background
In the Basis and Purpose section of Part 971, the FCC states that these Rules and Regulations “are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles,” the first of which is as follows:
(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.[§97.1]
The League believes that emergency communications and public service communications should be readily provided by Amateur Radio operators where the public is the principal beneficiary. The League also believes that, with forethought and understanding of the FCC‟s Rules, it is possible to provide emergency communications for many kinds of organizations in our communities without violating the Rules.
The ARRL‟s intention here is to present relevant excerpts from the FCC‟s Rules that pertain to communications on behalf of others, especially by employees on behalf of their employers, and to offer guidelines for safeguarding Amateur Radio from inappropriate use by commercial, non-profit, and government entities.
Page 2
In 1993, in Docket 92-136, the FCC (in response to an ARRL request) relaxed the restrictions on business communications in the Amateur Radio Service. The reason for the change was “to give amateur operators greater flexibility to provide communications for public service projects as well as to enhance the value of the amateur service in satisfying personal communication needs.” The change made life easier for volunteer Amateur Radio communicators. However, there was no change to rules that prohibit communications in which the operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer. With very limited and very specific exceptions, such communications are now – and always have been – expressly prohibited.
In 2007, after a series of major disasters in the United States in which Amateur Radio operators made great contributions and attracted much attention from emergency responders, the ARRL‟s National Emergency Response Planning Committee‟s report2 to the ARRL Board of Directors noted that:
“We may be entering an era when a different kind of threat to Amateur Radio spectrum has to be dealt with, one which is directly related to emergency communications. In addition to protecting our spectrum from our enemies, sometimes we also have to protect it from our friends. These are entities which have become aware of Amateur Radio’s value during disasters, either from first-hand observation or from our effective public relations efforts.
“Some organizations are expressing interest in using Amateur Radio in ways that are not in the best interests of our radio service and that run contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the FCC’s Rules.
“We are hearing about agencies which, having heard that Amateur Radio works „when all else fails,‟ decide that the answer to their communications problems is to get some Amateur Radio gear. They have heard that in life-and-death situations the FCC’s Rule about having licenses goes out the window, so (their line of reasoning goes) it will be all right to just skip the licensing bit and plan to use Amateur Radio equipment for disaster communications.
“These organizations are not enemies of Amateur Radio. On the contrary, their interest in Amateur Radio exists because they admire Amateur Radio‟s proven emergency communications ability.
“However, they could become adversaries if the ARRL does not take the necessary steps to show them how they can use Amateur Radio within the spirit of the FCC’s Rules. For example, they could form agreements with existing Amateur Radio emergency communications groups. Alternatively, the FCC has stated more than once that the Rules do not prohibit Amateurs „who are emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief from using the amateur service bands while in a paid duty status.‟ [See Report and Order,
Page 3
FCC 06-149, 21 FCC Rcd.11643, released October 10, 2006 at Paragraph 52, and the Order, DA-99-2654,14 FCC Rcd. 20595, released November 29, 1999 (WTB)]
The organizations which have shown interest in having their employees use Amateur Radio for such business purposes as interoperability and continuity of operations are not limited to charities, medical facilities, law enforcement and firefighters, or emergency management agencies. The ARRL has been informed that enterprises as diverse as insurance companies, federal agencies not engaged in emergency preparedness, city government, state government, and businesses offering continuity of operations services to clients may be using or may be planning to have employees use Amateur Radio. Some of these entities have even questioned the necessity for their employees to have licenses in order to use Amateur Radio frequencies.
Relevant excerpts from the FCC’s Rules
§97.7 states that when transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:
(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or
(b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part.
In other words, the idea that licensing is not necessary if a business‟s plan is to have employees use Amateur Radio when (in the business‟s opinion) there is an emergency is very much mistaken. As the National Emergency Response Planning Committee report said, “Imagine the chaos on the Amateur bands if all sorts of unlicensed, incompetent users were to go on the air during a disaster.” Planning for unlicensed Amateur operation during anticipated future emergencies is a clearly illegal end-run around the FCC’s Rules and the Communications Act of 1934. Perhaps, if an unlicensed person operates an Amateur station without a licensed control operator present during an actual emergency, he or she may not be sanctioned by the FCC after the emergency ends. However, whether or not the sanction is applied, unlicensed operation with no licensed control operator is never permitted by anyone at any time.
§ 97.111 Authorized transmissions.
(a) An amateur station may transmit the following types of two-way communications:
(2) Transmissions necessary to meet essential communication needs and to facilitate relief actions.
§97.113 Prohibited transmissions
(a) No amateur station shall transmit
(2) Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in these rules;
Page 4
(3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer.
(5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services.
§97.113 goes on to make two exceptions to paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3), as follows:
(c) A control operator may accept compensation as an incident of a teaching position during periods of time when an amateur station is used by that teacher as a part of classroom instruction at an educational institution.
(d) The control operator of a club station may accept compensation for the periods of time when the station is transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins, provided that the station transmits such telegraphy practice and bulletins for at least 40 hours per week; schedules operations on at least six amateur service MF and HF bands using reasonable measures to maximize coverage; where the schedule of normal operating times and frequencies is published at least 30 days in advance of the actual transmissions; and where the control operator does not accept any direct or indirect compensation for any other service as a control operator.
The FCC‟s Report and Order, FCC 06-149, 21 FCC Rcd.11643, released October 10, 2006, clarifies the rules for employees by stating that “Section 97.113 does not prohibit amateur radio operators who are emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief from using the amateur service bands while on paid duty status. These individuals are not receiving compensation for transmitting amateur service communications; rather, they are receiving compensation for services related to their disaster relief duties and in their capacities as emergency personnel.”
This is not an “exception” to the “no communications on behalf of an employer” rule – it is simply recognition of the public benefit of Amateur Radio stated in the Basis and Purpose section of the Rules at §97.1(a) quoted above. Thus, paid emergency personnel who are licensed amateurs and who find themselves needing to use amateur radio in disaster relief operations can rely on the Commission’s statements that they may do so.
However, this clarification from the FCC does not give blanket permission for operators to communicate on behalf of their employers. It applies only to “emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief.” It does not apply to training exercises or drills. It does not apply to employees of entities that may encounter business disruptions but which are not in the business (either for-profit or non-profit) of providing disaster relief.
Some Amateurs believe that communications on behalf of one‟s employer are allowed if the business is not for profit, or if the communications are transmitted outside the employee‟s regular working hours – when he or she is, so to speak, “not on the clock.” The FCC‟s Rules do not distinguish between for-profit and non-profit organizations. Nor
Page 5
do the Rules say anything about the employee‟s working hours or paid duty status. Rather, the rule prohibits all communications on behalf of one‟s employer, save for two very narrow exceptions [97.113(c) and (d)] quoted above.
The FCC’s Rules do not prohibit the recreational use of Amateur Radio by employees at a station located in the workplace, including club stations. Many companies, including the ARRL (W1HQ), provide stations for the recreational use of employees who have Amateur Radio licenses. As long as employees are not communicating on behalf of their employer, i.e., doing their employer’s business on the air, there is nothing illegal about the operation of these stations on the employer’s premises.
How do we know what is legal?
The FCC has declined to provide a list of permitted and prohibited transmissions, including those made in an emergency communications context, saying that because of the wide diversity in the types of communications in which Amateurs want to engage, there would have to be thousands of examples. We are expected to study the Rules and apply critical thinking to the facts at hand.3
How do we decide what is inappropriate, even though it is legal?
Communications for business entities by volunteers – that is, by licensed Amateurs who receive no direct or indirect compensation and who have no pecuniary interest in the communications – are legal as long as they are not conducted on a regular basis and otherwise comply with the FCC rules. Still, many volunteers are uncomfortable with providing communications for commercial enterprises and some other entities. There is good reason to be cautious.
It is a narrow path between (1) utilizing beneficial opportunities for public service communications and showcasing the continued relevance and importance of Amateur Radio communications to the public; and (2) allowing organizations to exploit Amateur Radio as a cheap and flexible alternative to the Land Mobile Radio Service, General Mobile Radio Service, or Commercial Mobile Radio Service facilities.
Amateur Radio should not be used as a substitute for Part 90 Land Mobile communications or other reasonably available alternate communications systems, including unlicensed services. Advance planning by businesses and organizations for business restoration communications should normally be done with reference to Part 904 or Part 955 communications facilities. That is to be distinguished from disaster planning or emergency communications planning for the benefit of the public, which should always involve Amateur Radio as at least one component. The fact that an organization may feel that using other radio services is too complicated or too expensive is not a justification for them to use Amateur Radio in ways that are contrary to the purposes of the Amateur Service. The fact that an organization is doing good work is not a justification for ignoring the FCC‟s Rules, including §97.113(a)(5), or allowing the exploitation of the Amateur Service.
Page 6
An enterprise, whether for-profit or non-profit, which intends to use Amateur Radio communications on a regular basis for its own basic organizational purposes, but could reasonably use other radio services available to them, should be steered toward those services. A good rule of thumb when evaluating a particular request for communications support is, “Who benefits?” If public safety is the principal beneficiary, then §97.1 is being fulfilled. If the entity itself and not the general public is the principal beneficiary, then they should be encouraged to use radio services other than Amateur Radio.
Enterprises that become accustomed to using Amateur frequencies for interoperability, continuity of operations, and to avoid the expense and complications related to other radio services may, at some time in the future, decide to petition to have certain Amateur frequencies allocated to them outright. The belief that these are “our bands” in perpetuity and not subject to reallocation is mistaken. Our access to spectrum is a privilege, not a right, and something that is continuously under re-evaluation.
Reasonable people with well-developed ethical senses and long experience in public service may come to different conclusions about the appropriateness of providing legal volunteer communications on behalf of particular enterprises. Discussion and debate about ethical issues can be constructive rather than divisive and can lead to better decision-making by Amateurs involved in public service. One thing is certain: Our portions of the spectrum are, in commercial terms, of extraordinarily high monetary value to others. How we use them regularly determines our continued tenure.
Why not ask the FCC to decide for us?
Why should Amateurs avoid contacting the FCC to ask if this, that, or the other communication is permissible? There are several reasons. First, the FCC has, for the most part, very clearly put the determination of what communications are proper in the hands of amateurs themselves.
Second, the FCC has declined to give us a list of what events are legal. Devotion of the FCC‟s resources to detailed analysis and evaluation of hundreds of diverse projects and proposals is not a realistic expectation.
Third, with respect to communications “on behalf of an employer,” a subject which has triggered more speculation than any other portion of the rules governing prohibited communications, the rule on the books, which has not changed in many years, is straightforward and clear: Such communications are not permitted. If there is doubt about whether or not certain communications by a radio amateur who is an employee of a business, whether for profit or non-profit, are “on behalf of” the employer, the default should be not to do them.
Fourth, appeals by large numbers of well-meaning Amateurs to the FCC to tell us what the Rules say and what the Rules mean undercut our argument that the Amateur Radio Service should be trusted to experiment with a great degree of freedom, largely regulate
Page 7
our own activities, and appeal to the FCC for regulation and enforcement only when all other options have been exhausted.
Finally, in the past, when the FCC staff has been informally asked detailed questions about what is and is not legal, the outcome has been inconsistent and on occasion undesirable. In some cases, restrictive interpretations have been given that hindered our freedom to experiment, innovate, and serve the public interest. In some other cases, permissive interpretations have been given that were later reversed by the FCC, causing confusion. Rather than ask FCC staff for interpretations, which are unofficial, Amateurs should rely on the text of the FCC‟s Rules and on official Report and Order documents.
How can the ARRL offer additional assistance to Amateurs regarding compliance with the Rules and promote reasoned decision-making about appropriate uses of Amateur Radio?
This committee offers the following recommendations:
The ARRL should help Amateurs to better understand the FCC‟s Rules at 97.113. The editorial in September, 2009, QST, is a good start and should be followed up with additional educational material in the ARRL‟s media and emergency communications courses.
The ARRL should prepare and disseminate an informational paper about other radio services, both licensed and unlicensed, which may be available to businesses and organizations. Some such information is already presented in the ARRL‟s emergency communications courses, and that is a good start. However, judging from the number and content of inquiries received by our Regulatory Information Branch, additional information and a wider distribution are needed.
The ARRL should encourage all license course instructors to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the FCC‟s Rules on business communications and to emphasize it in their teaching – particularly when instructing employee groups who might use Amateur Radio inappropriately in the absence of proper education about the Rules.
The ARRL should encourage all license manual publishers to increase emphasis on §97.113 and to include material explaining why it is essential to understand and follow the rules concerning communications on behalf of an employer.
The ARRL should provide assistance in the design of training exercises which comply with the FCC‟s Rules for community organizations such as hospitals. The Headquarters Staff and knowledgeable Field Organization volunteers can cooperate to develop ideas and promote critical thinking about how to meet community needs within the scope of the FCC‟s Rules. Presentations on the subject that are intended for non-amateur audiences should be developed and provided to the Field Organization through ARRL Headquarters.
Page 8
The ARRL‟s media should endeavor to describe public service and emergency communications projects which demonstrate how Amateurs carefully factored Rules compliance into their planning.
Conclusion
These guidelines are not intended to, and should not, discourage anyone from sponsoring or taking Amateur Radio licensing classes, or from obtaining a license. Amateur radio involvement teaches skills that are valuable across a broad range of communications platforms and media, and makes one a part of a community of public service-minded individuals.
Nor are these guidelines intended to discourage or hinder Amateurs from participating in public service and emergency communications or from seeking opportunities to fulfill the purpose stated in [§97.1].
Rather, they are intended to remind us that our obligation to abide by the FCC‟s Rules applies as much to public service and emergency communications activity as to any other kind of Amateur Radio operation. They are also intended to challenge us to consider the appropriateness of using Amateur Radio to serve the needs of particular enterprises in our communities, even if the FCC‟s Rules may not be an issue. Finally, they are intended to suggest positive actions the ARRL can take to improve awareness of the FCC‟s Rules as they pertain to public service and emergency communications.
1 The FCC‟s Rules for the Amateur Radio Service are posted on the ARRL‟s Web site at http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/news/part97/.
2 The complete National Emergency Response Planning Committee report is available on the ARRL Web site at http://www.arrl.org/announce/reports-2007/january/NERPC-32aa.pdf.
3 The ARRL‟s Regulatory Information Branch (reginfo@arrl.org, http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/index.html) helps address questions about FCC Rules and Regulations.
4 Part 90 regulates the Private Land Mobile Radio Services. According to the FCC Web site (http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=private_land_radio), “Private land mobile radio systems are used by companies, local governments, and other organizations to meet a wide range of communication requirements, including coordination of people and materials, important safety and security needs, and quick response in times of emergency. These systems, which often share frequencies with other private users, make possible many day-to-day activities that people across the United States have come to rely on, whether directly or indirectly. Public safety agencies, utilities, railroads, manufacturers, and a wide variety of other businesses – from delivery companies to landscapers to building maintenance firms – rely on their business radio systems every day.”
Page 9
5 Part 95 regulates the Personal Radio Services (http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=personal_radio). These include the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), Family Radio Service (FRS), Citizens Band Radio Service (CB), and Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS). Searching on the names of these radio services on the FCC‟s Web site will provide additional information about the appropriate uses of these radio services.
ARRL – the national association for Amateur Radio
225 Main Street, Newington, Connecticut 06111
September 2009

Commercialization of Amateur Radio: The Rules, The Risks, The Issues

Introduction

From its founding in 1914 to the present day, the American Radio Relay League has fostered Amateur Radio public service and emergency communications activities. The League encourages organizations engaged in disaster relief to make appropriate use of Amateur Radio. Further, the League welcomes new, public-service minded licensees from all occupational and professional backgrounds.

The ARRL believes that the Amateur Radio Service and our emergency communications activities flourish best in an atmosphere of respect for and compliance with the FCC‟s Rules. These Rules provide for more flexibility than is typical of other radio services. They guide our operations and assist us in protecting the spectrum allocated to the Amateur Radio Service from encroachment by commercial interests.

This document is not intended to discourage anyone from becoming an Amateur or to discourage any organization from promoting an interest in Amateur Radio among its employees and volunteers. Nor does it signal any change in the League‟s long-standing devotion to public service and emergency communications. Its objective is to educate both Amateurs and the organizations we serve about what is permitted under the FCC‟s current Rules and to assist Amateurs in making reasoned decisions about the appropriateness of services we may offer to organizations in our communities.

Background

In the Basis and Purpose section of Part 971, the FCC states that these Rules and Regulations “are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles,” the first of which is as follows:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.[§97.1]

The League believes that emergency communications and public service communications should be readily provided by Amateur Radio operators where the public is the principal beneficiary. The League also believes that, with forethought and understanding of the FCC‟s Rules, it is possible to provide emergency communications for many kinds of organizations in our communities without violating the Rules.

The ARRL‟s intention here is to present relevant excerpts from the FCC‟s Rules that pertain to communications on behalf of others, especially by employees on behalf of their employers, and to offer guidelines for safeguarding Amateur Radio from inappropriate use by commercial, non-profit, and government entities.

In 1993, in Docket 92-136, the FCC (in response to an ARRL request) relaxed the restrictions on business communications in the Amateur Radio Service. The reason for the change was “to give amateur operators greater flexibility to provide communications for public service projects as well as to enhance the value of the amateur service in satisfying personal communication needs.” The change made life easier for volunteer Amateur Radio communicators. However, there was no change to rules that prohibit communications in which the operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer. With very limited and very specific exceptions, such communications are now – and always have been – expressly prohibited.

In 2007, after a series of major disasters in the United States in which Amateur Radio operators made great contributions and attracted much attention from emergency responders, the ARRL‟s National Emergency Response Planning Committee‟s report2 to the ARRL Board of Directors noted that:

“We may be entering an era when a different kind of threat to Amateur Radio spectrum has to be dealt with, one which is directly related to emergency communications. In addition to protecting our spectrum from our enemies, sometimes we also have to protect it from our friends. These are entities which have become aware of Amateur Radio’s value during disasters, either from first-hand observation or from our effective public relations efforts.

“Some organizations are expressing interest in using Amateur Radio in ways that are not in the best interests of our radio service and that run contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the FCC’s Rules.

“We are hearing about agencies which, having heard that Amateur Radio works „when all else fails,‟ decide that the answer to their communications problems is to get some Amateur Radio gear. They have heard that in life-and-death situations the FCC’s Rule about having licenses goes out the window, so (their line of reasoning goes) it will be all right to just skip the licensing bit and plan to use Amateur Radio equipment for disaster communications.

“These organizations are not enemies of Amateur Radio. On the contrary, their interest in Amateur Radio exists because they admire Amateur Radio‟s proven emergency communications ability.

“However, they could become adversaries if the ARRL does not take the necessary steps to show them how they can use Amateur Radio within the spirit of the FCC’s Rules. For example, they could form agreements with existing Amateur Radio emergency communications groups. Alternatively, the FCC has stated more than once that the Rules do not prohibit Amateurs „who are emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief from using the amateur service bands while in a paid duty status.‟ [See Report and Order,

FCC 06-149, 21 FCC Rcd.11643, released October 10, 2006 at Paragraph 52, and the Order, DA-99-2654,14 FCC Rcd. 20595, released November 29, 1999 (WTB)]

The organizations which have shown interest in having their employees use Amateur Radio for such business purposes as interoperability and continuity of operations are not limited to charities, medical facilities, law enforcement and firefighters, or emergency management agencies. The ARRL has been informed that enterprises as diverse as insurance companies, federal agencies not engaged in emergency preparedness, city government, state government, and businesses offering continuity of operations services to clients may be using or may be planning to have employees use Amateur Radio. Some of these entities have even questioned the necessity for their employees to have licenses in order to use Amateur Radio frequencies.

Relevant excerpts from the FCC’s Rules

§97.7 states that when transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:

(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or

(b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part.

In other words, the idea that licensing is not necessary if a business‟s plan is to have employees use Amateur Radio when (in the business‟s opinion) there is an emergency is very much mistaken. As the National Emergency Response Planning Committee report said, “Imagine the chaos on the Amateur bands if all sorts of unlicensed, incompetent users were to go on the air during a disaster.” Planning for unlicensed Amateur operation during anticipated future emergencies is a clearly illegal end-run around the FCC’s Rules and the Communications Act of 1934. Perhaps, if an unlicensed person operates an Amateur station without a licensed control operator present during an actual emergency, he or she may not be sanctioned by the FCC after the emergency ends. However, whether or not the sanction is applied, unlicensed operation with no licensed control operator is never permitted by anyone at any time.

§ 97.111 Authorized transmissions.

(a) An amateur station may transmit the following types of two-way communications:

(2) Transmissions necessary to meet essential communication needs and to facilitate relief actions.

§97.113 Prohibited transmissions

(a) No amateur station shall transmit

(2) Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in these rules;

(3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer.

(5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services.

§97.113 goes on to make two exceptions to paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3), as follows:

(c) A control operator may accept compensation as an incident of a teaching position during periods of time when an amateur station is used by that teacher as a part of classroom instruction at an educational institution.

(d) The control operator of a club station may accept compensation for the periods of time when the station is transmitting telegraphy practice or information bulletins, provided that the station transmits such telegraphy practice and bulletins for at least 40 hours per week; schedules operations on at least six amateur service MF and HF bands using reasonable measures to maximize coverage; where the schedule of normal operating times and frequencies is published at least 30 days in advance of the actual transmissions; and where the control operator does not accept any direct or indirect compensation for any other service as a control operator.

The FCC‟s Report and Order, FCC 06-149, 21 FCC Rcd.11643, released October 10, 2006, clarifies the rules for employees by stating that “Section 97.113 does not prohibit amateur radio operators who are emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief from using the amateur service bands while on paid duty status. These individuals are not receiving compensation for transmitting amateur service communications; rather, they are receiving compensation for services related to their disaster relief duties and in their capacities as emergency personnel.”

This is not an “exception” to the “no communications on behalf of an employer” rule – it is simply recognition of the public benefit of Amateur Radio stated in the Basis and Purpose section of the Rules at §97.1(a) quoted above. Thus, paid emergency personnel who are licensed amateurs and who find themselves needing to use amateur radio in disaster relief operations can rely on the Commission’s statements that they may do so.

However, this clarification from the FCC does not give blanket permission for operators to communicate on behalf of their employers. It applies only to “emergency personnel engaged in disaster relief.” It does not apply to training exercises or drills. It does not apply to employees of entities that may encounter business disruptions but which are not in the business (either for-profit or non-profit) of providing disaster relief.

Some Amateurs believe that communications on behalf of one‟s employer are allowed if the business is not for profit, or if the communications are transmitted outside the employee‟s regular working hours – when he or she is, so to speak, “not on the clock.” The FCC‟s Rules do not distinguish between for-profit and non-profit organizations. Nor do the Rules say anything about the employee‟s working hours or paid duty status. Rather, the rule prohibits all communications on behalf of one‟s employer, save for two very narrow exceptions [97.113(c) and (d)] quoted above.

The FCC’s Rules do not prohibit the recreational use of Amateur Radio by employees at a station located in the workplace, including club stations. Many companies, including the ARRL (W1HQ), provide stations for the recreational use of employees who have Amateur Radio licenses. As long as employees are not communicating on behalf of their employer, i.e., doing their employer’s business on the air, there is nothing illegal about the operation of these stations on the employer’s premises.

How do we know what is legal?

The FCC has declined to provide a list of permitted and prohibited transmissions, including those made in an emergency communications context, saying that because of the wide diversity in the types of communications in which Amateurs want to engage, there would have to be thousands of examples. We are expected to study the Rules and apply critical thinking to the facts at hand.3

How do we decide what is inappropriate, even though it is legal?

Communications for business entities by volunteers – that is, by licensed Amateurs who receive no direct or indirect compensation and who have no pecuniary interest in the communications – are legal as long as they are not conducted on a regular basis and otherwise comply with the FCC rules. Still, many volunteers are uncomfortable with providing communications for commercial enterprises and some other entities. There is good reason to be cautious.

It is a narrow path between (1) utilizing beneficial opportunities for public service communications and showcasing the continued relevance and importance of Amateur Radio communications to the public; and (2) allowing organizations to exploit Amateur Radio as a cheap and flexible alternative to the Land Mobile Radio Service, General Mobile Radio Service, or Commercial Mobile Radio Service facilities.

Amateur Radio should not be used as a substitute for Part 90 Land Mobile communications or other reasonably available alternate communications systems, including unlicensed services. Advance planning by businesses and organizations for business restoration communications should normally be done with reference to Part 904 or Part 955 communications facilities. That is to be distinguished from disaster planning or emergency communications planning for the benefit of the public, which should always involve Amateur Radio as at least one component. The fact that an organization may feel that using other radio services is too complicated or too expensive is not a justification for them to use Amateur Radio in ways that are contrary to the purposes of the Amateur Service. The fact that an organization is doing good work is not a justification for ignoring the FCC‟s Rules, including §97.113(a)(5), or allowing the exploitation of the Amateur Service.

An enterprise, whether for-profit or non-profit, which intends to use Amateur Radio communications on a regular basis for its own basic organizational purposes, but could reasonably use other radio services available to them, should be steered toward those services. A good rule of thumb when evaluating a particular request for communications support is, “Who benefits?” If public safety is the principal beneficiary, then §97.1 is being fulfilled. If the entity itself and not the general public is the principal beneficiary, then they should be encouraged to use radio services other than Amateur Radio.

Enterprises that become accustomed to using Amateur frequencies for interoperability, continuity of operations, and to avoid the expense and complications related to other radio services may, at some time in the future, decide to petition to have certain Amateur frequencies allocated to them outright. The belief that these are “our bands” in perpetuity and not subject to reallocation is mistaken. Our access to spectrum is a privilege, not a right, and something that is continuously under re-evaluation.

Reasonable people with well-developed ethical senses and long experience in public service may come to different conclusions about the appropriateness of providing legal volunteer communications on behalf of particular enterprises. Discussion and debate about ethical issues can be constructive rather than divisive and can lead to better decision-making by Amateurs involved in public service. One thing is certain: Our portions of the spectrum are, in commercial terms, of extraordinarily high monetary value to others. How we use them regularly determines our continued tenure.

Why not ask the FCC to decide for us?

Why should Amateurs avoid contacting the FCC to ask if this, that, or the other communication is permissible? There are several reasons. First, the FCC has, for the most part, very clearly put the determination of what communications are proper in the hands of amateurs themselves.

Second, the FCC has declined to give us a list of what events are legal. Devotion of the FCC‟s resources to detailed analysis and evaluation of hundreds of diverse projects and proposals is not a realistic expectation.

Third, with respect to communications “on behalf of an employer,” a subject which has triggered more speculation than any other portion of the rules governing prohibited communications, the rule on the books, which has not changed in many years, is straightforward and clear: Such communications are not permitted. If there is doubt about whether or not certain communications by a radio amateur who is an employee of a business, whether for profit or non-profit, are “on behalf of” the employer, the default should be not to do them.

Fourth, appeals by large numbers of well-meaning Amateurs to the FCC to tell us what the Rules say and what the Rules mean undercut our argument that the Amateur Radio Service should be trusted to experiment with a great degree of freedom, largely regulate our own activities, and appeal to the FCC for regulation and enforcement only when all other options have been exhausted.

Finally, in the past, when the FCC staff has been informally asked detailed questions about what is and is not legal, the outcome has been inconsistent and on occasion undesirable. In some cases, restrictive interpretations have been given that hindered our freedom to experiment, innovate, and serve the public interest. In some other cases, permissive interpretations have been given that were later reversed by the FCC, causing confusion. Rather than ask FCC staff for interpretations, which are unofficial, Amateurs should rely on the text of the FCC‟s Rules and on official Report and Order documents.

How can the ARRL offer additional assistance to Amateurs regarding compliance with the Rules and promote reasoned decision-making about appropriate uses of Amateur Radio?

This committee offers the following recommendations:

The ARRL should help Amateurs to better understand the FCC‟s Rules at 97.113. The editorial in September, 2009, QST, is a good start and should be followed up with additional educational material in the ARRL‟s media and emergency communications courses.

The ARRL should prepare and disseminate an informational paper about other radio services, both licensed and unlicensed, which may be available to businesses and organizations. Some such information is already presented in the ARRL‟s emergency communications courses, and that is a good start. However, judging from the number and content of inquiries received by our Regulatory Information Branch, additional information and a wider distribution are needed.

The ARRL should encourage all license course instructors to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the FCC‟s Rules on business communications and to emphasize it in their teaching – particularly when instructing employee groups who might use Amateur Radio inappropriately in the absence of proper education about the Rules.

The ARRL should encourage all license manual publishers to increase emphasis on §97.113 and to include material explaining why it is essential to understand and follow the rules concerning communications on behalf of an employer.

The ARRL should provide assistance in the design of training exercises which comply with the FCC‟s Rules for community organizations such as hospitals. The Headquarters Staff and knowledgeable Field Organization volunteers can cooperate to develop ideas and promote critical thinking about how to meet community needs within the scope of the FCC‟s Rules. Presentations on the subject that are intended for non-amateur audiences should be developed and provided to the Field Organization through ARRL Headquarters.

The ARRL‟s media should endeavor to describe public service and emergency communications projects which demonstrate how Amateurs carefully factored Rules compliance into their planning.

Conclusion

These guidelines are not intended to, and should not, discourage anyone from sponsoring or taking Amateur Radio licensing classes, or from obtaining a license. Amateur radio involvement teaches skills that are valuable across a broad range of communications platforms and media, and makes one a part of a community of public service-minded individuals.

Nor are these guidelines intended to discourage or hinder Amateurs from participating in public service and emergency communications or from seeking opportunities to fulfill the purpose stated in [§97.1].

Rather, they are intended to remind us that our obligation to abide by the FCC‟s Rules applies as much to public service and emergency communications activity as to any other kind of Amateur Radio operation. They are also intended to challenge us to consider the appropriateness of using Amateur Radio to serve the needs of particular enterprises in our communities, even if the FCC‟s Rules may not be an issue. Finally, they are intended to suggest positive actions the ARRL can take to improve awareness of the FCC‟s Rules as they pertain to public service and emergency communications.

1 The FCC‟s Rules for the Amateur Radio Service are posted on the ARRL‟s Web site at http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/news/part97/.

2 The complete National Emergency Response Planning Committee report is available on the ARRL Web site at http://www.arrl.org/announce/reports-2007/january/NERPC-32aa.pdf.

3 The ARRL‟s Regulatory Information Branch (reginfo@arrl.org, http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/index.html) helps address questions about FCC Rules and Regulations.

4 Part 90 regulates the Private Land Mobile Radio Services. According to the FCC Web site (http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=private_land_radio), “Private land mobile radio systems are used by companies, local governments, and other organizations to meet a wide range of communication requirements, including coordination of people and materials, important safety and security needs, and quick response in times of emergency. These systems, which often share frequencies with other private users, make possible many day-to-day activities that people across the United States have come to rely on, whether directly or indirectly. Public safety agencies, utilities, railroads, manufacturers, and a wide variety of other businesses – from delivery companies to landscapers to building maintenance firms – rely on their business radio systems every day.”

5 Part 95 regulates the Personal Radio Services (http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=personal_radio). These include the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), Family Radio Service (FRS), Citizens Band Radio Service (CB), and Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS). Searching on the names of these radio services on the FCC‟s Web site will provide additional information about the appropriate uses of these radio services.

ARRL – the national association for Amateur Radio

225 Main Street, Newington, Connecticut 06111

http://www.arrl.org

September 2009

Perhaps the rules may someday change, but despite the emotionalism of some Emcomm corners the law prevails.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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GPS System Issues to Make ARPS Unreliable by 2010?

A recent article on the UK Guardian Newspaper’s website is an alarm to our technological dependencies on GPS.

“It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption,” said the report, presented to Congress. “If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected.”

Pol-Speak for “it is breaking and we won’t get it fixed in time to keep it running 100%.”

Many of us have lost track of how many parts of our life are affected by GPS – new cars often have one or two GPS receivers on them (often the obligatory OnStar has its own GPS), many cellphones have GPS enabled, we have our TomToms & Amateur Radio ARPS systems.

GPS is part of tracking shipments, surveying our crops, measuring our construction efforts, flying our planes and has become integral in land navigation.

We had substitutes, but most are Direction Finding ranging from the simple ADF (Automatic (radio) Direction Finding), discontinued systems like the OMEGA Navigation System and comparative signal land based systems like LORAN rather than the precision system that the Global Positioning System (GPS) offers.

As radio amateurs we should make sure we have non-GPS dependent technologies to accomplish mission essential Emcomm/Freecom needs if GPS is unavailable.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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