*************** The ARRL Letter Vol. 22, No. 31 August 8, 2003 *************** IN THIS EDITION: * +ARRL president says BPL is "spectrum pollution" * +NCVEC committee mulls new entry-level license * +International Space School students chat via ham radio with ISS * +New HF RFID tag limits not expected to affect hams * +Hams part of Montana wildfire response * +League documents digital modes * +Two sections getting new SMs in October * Solar Update * IN BRIEF: This weekend on the radio ARRL Emergency Communications Course registration ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration Correction Incident leads to cancellation of ham exam sessions Red Cross honors ARRL for Amateur Radio's tornado work Ham radio distress call yields help from next state Committee reports now available on ARRL Web site Vote on QST Cover Plaque Award DXCC Annual List deadline approaching +Available on ARRL Audio News =========================================================== ==>BPL IS "SPECTRUM POLLUTION," ARRL PRESIDENT SAYS ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, says Broadband over Power Line (BPL)--if widely deployed--would represent "spectrum pollution" on a level that is "difficult to imagine." Haynie reacted after seeing videotape and early data from recent ARRL field studies in four states where BPL is undergoing testing. "BPL is the most crucial issue facing Amateur Radio and the one that has the most devastating potential," Haynie said. In terms of interference potential on HF and low-VHF frequencies, "nothing is on the same scale as BPL." A form of power line carrier (PLC) technology, BPL would use existing low and medium-voltage power lines to deliver broadband services to homes and businesses. Because it uses frequencies between 2 and 80 MHz, BPL could affect HF and low-VHF amateur allocations wherever it's deployed. BPL proponents--primarily electric power utilities--already are testing BPL systems in several markets, and one reportedly is already offering the service. FCC rules already allow BPL, although industry proponents want the FCC to relax radiation limits. It's feared such a change could exacerbate BPL's interference potential. During the ARRL forum at the West Gulf Division Convention (Austin Summerfest 2003) August 1-2 in Austin, Texas, Haynie previewed a short video highlighting a recent tour of BPL field trial sites by ARRL Lab Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI. In late July, Hare traveled to BPL trial communities in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York to take measurements over significant parts of the HF spectrum and initial readings at low-VHF. Driving a specially equipped vehicle loaded with radio gear and measurement devices, Hare said he didn't need to look long to find BPL interference. "The signals were all over," he said. "The interference found ranged from moderate to extremely strong." The video shows the S meter of an HF transceiver holding steady in excess of S9 as the speaker emits a crackling din, which one observer described as sounding like a Geiger counter. Only the very strongest amateur signals broke through on 20 and 15 meters. Hare noted, however, that the field strengths of the various systems all were within FCC Part 15 limits for power line carrier (PLC) devices. Each BPL system exhibited a unique sound depending upon the modulation scheme it used. While in most cases it sounded like static or pulse noise, in one city warbling "birdies" blanketed the bands at closely spaced intervals. The ARRL already has filed a 120-page package of text and technical exhibits in response to the FCC's Notice of Inquiry in late May. The League plans to file reply comments--responses to comments already filed--by the recently extended August 20 FCC deadline. Haynie has been doing a bit of traveling of his own, including more than two weeks in Washington so far this year dealing with the FCC and with members of Congress on BPL and other Amateur Radio-related issues. Countering critics who suggest that the League is only using BPL as a fund-raising ploy, Haynie said the League would not be putting as much effort into attempting to quantify the BPL threat and to put a face on it if it weren't real. "The BPL industry and their associations have told the FCC and the world that there is no interference potential from BPL systems," Haynie said. "Anyone seeing these BPL signals for megahertz after megahertz for miles along a power line should be convinced that BPL--even operating at the present FCC limits--poses a serious threat to all HF and low-VHF communications." More information is available on the ARRL Web site <http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2003/07/08/1/>. Additional information and video clips are on the ARRL "Power Line Communications (PLC) and Amateur Radio" page <http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/>. ==>NCVEC COMMITTEE STUDYING NEW ENTRY-LEVEL LICENSE PROPOSALS The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) has formed a committee to develop an FCC rule making proposal for a new entry-level Amateur Service license. The move came during the NCVEC's annual meeting July 25 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where attendees heard presentations on the possibilities for such a new ticket. At the same session, the NCVEC also approved plans to draft and submit a rule making petition to eliminate the current 5 WPM Morse code requirement (Element 1) and to give Novice/Tech Plus HF privileges to all current Technician licensees. NCVEC Chair John Creel, WB3GXW, of the Laurel VEC presided over the gathering, which included representatives of 12 of the nation's 14 VECs. NCVEC Question Pool Committee Chair Scotty Neustadter, W4WW, and Rules Committee Chair Fred Maia, W5YI, offered separate proposals for an entry-level license. Neustadter said while the current entry-level license, the Technician class, provides full VHF and UHF privileges, it does not offer a simple entry path. He recommended a 50-W maximum power output level, Novice/Tech HF subbands plus 12 and 17-meter privileges and a 20-question written exam. Maia's proposal suggested upgrading all current Tech and Tech Plus licensees to General and allowing their use of all bands. Beginner licensees should be granted call signs from the NA-NZ#xxx call sign block, he said. Both Maia and Neustadter suggest ways to streamline the number of license classes. Maia offered up the possibility of asking the FCC to eliminate the Morse testing requirement immediately, easing code exam format restrictions and giving serious thought to dropping CW-only subbands as well. Neustadter recommended no changes in CW/phone allocations, at least for now. Maia, Neustadter, Jim Wiley, KL7CC, and John Johnston, W3BE, will serve on the entry-level license study committee. The panel is to report back to the NCVEC within a few weeks. The NCVEC representatives' approval to petition the FCC seeking the deletion of the Element 1 Morse code examination requirement for HF access was in reaction to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 (WRC-03) decision to leave such requirements up to individual administrations. The ARRL-VEC abstained from voting on the issue. Responding to a question, the FCC's Bill Cross, W3TN, told the group that he did not believe the Administrative Procedures Act would permit the FCC to drop the Morse code testing requirement on its own motion. He predicted a lively debate during any proposal-and-comment period. In remarks at the meeting, FCC Special Counsel for Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth complimented the VECs for their efforts. He noted that complaints concerning the administration of amateur exams were at their lowest point in the five years he's been handling amateur enforcement. He also said VECs should not underestimate the FCC's concerns regarding examination integrity. Members of the Licensing and Technical Analysis Branch staff at the FCC's Gettysburg office demonstrated a beta version of new Universal Licensing System <http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/> on-line filing software expected to go live in September. Among other features, the new, user-friendly software will incorporate on-screen links to context-relevant "common questions" and ease the process of applying for a vanity call sign. It also will provide compatibility with screen-reading software employed by sight-impaired users. The NCVEC unanimously approved an extension of an experiment to use videoconferencing technology to conduct Amateur Radio testing in remote areas of Alaska. The NCVEC had voted last year to back a one-year trial run to be conducted by the Anchorage Volunteer Examiner Coordinator. Jim Wiley, KL7CC, of the Anchorage VEC told his colleagues that, after unexpected delays, his VEC expects to be testing within three months. ==>INTERNATIONAL SPACE SCHOOL STUDENTS TALK TO THE "OTHER" ISS Students at the International Space School <http://www.intspaceschoolfnd.org/> spoke August 1 via ham radio to NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu, KC5WKJ, aboard the International Space Station and at the controls of onboard ham station NA1SS. The contact was arranged via the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. The students gathered at the University of Houston in Clear Lake, Texas, for the contact, and Lu answered a dozen questions during the 10-minute pass. In answer to one question, Lu said being on the ISS had not altered his views regarding the possibility of extraterrestrial life. "I've always thought that it would be pretty remarkable circumstances if we on Earth were the only life anywhere in the universe," Lu responded. "The question is, 'Where?'" Lu said the answer to the question of whether life exists beyond the bound of Earth "is profound either way." Lu also said he seems to be enjoying spicier foods more since he's been aboard the ISS, but he was not able to figure out why that's the case. Every day on the ISS involves solving a problem of one kind or another, he said, but he called being in space "quite an honor" and "a tremendous opportunity" and he predicted the day would come when more people got the chance to experience space firsthand. Perhaps more than classroom work, Lu said, his experience as an aircraft owner helped prepare him for being in space. Being aboard the ISS "is a lot like working on the inside of an airplane or on the engine of an airplane in a lot of a cases, because the basic 'wrench skills' turn out to be quite a plus up here," he said. Since the ISS was passing over the Southern Hemisphere at the time, Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, in Australia--an ARISS veteran--served as Earth station for the International Space School contact. MCI provided a two-way audio teleconferencing link between Australia and Houston. ARISS <http://www.rac.ca/ariss/> is an international program with participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA. ==>NEW HF RFID TAG LIMITS SHOULD NOT AFFECT AMATEURS Little or no impact to the Amateur Service is expected at the low end of 20 meters in the wake of an FCC decision to raise the power limit for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that operate in the vicinity of 13.5 MHz. The FCC agreed in a Second Report and Order (SR&O) and Memorandum Opinion and Order (MO&O) in ET Docket 95-19 released July 17 to allow 3.5 times the previous harmonic field strength in the range of 13.710 to 14.010 MHz. The joint SR&O and MO&O were in response to a Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed by M/A-COM Private Radio Systems Inc in 2001 and a Petition for Reconsideration filed by the Information Technology Industry Council in 1997. The FCC authorized an increase in the maximum allowed field strength of unlicensed Part 15 devices that transmit data--specifically RFID tags--in the 13.553 to 13.567 MHz band from 10,000 to 15,848 uV/m at 30 meters. Additionally, the FCC permitted an increase in the maximum field strength of harmonics from the devices in the range of 13.110 to 13.410 MHz and 13.710 to 14.010 MHz from the current 30 uV/m to 106 uV/m at 30 meters. All other harmonics of the devices must remain below 30 uV/m at 30 meters. While the increased strength in lower sideband harmonics of the RFID devices creeps into the lowest 10 kHz of the 20-meter CW band, ARRL Lab Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI says there is little, if any, cause for hams to worry about increased noise. "The potential impact on amateurs from this rule change is minimal," he said. "To meet the field strength requirements at and above 14.010 MHz, these systems, in practice, would typically exhibit less than 1 dB over current FCC limits." The FCC said the changes would allow for improved operation and spur development of the RFID tag technology, as well as bring the standards in line with those in Europe and Australia. ==>HAMS STILL ACTIVE AS COOLER WEATHER HELPS TAME MONTANA WILDFIRES With the 24,000-acre Robert Fire <http://akteam.ak.blm.gov/> in Montana 55 percent contained and cooler weather and light rain over the August 2-3 weekend, residents in the contained area east of the fire were allowed to return home. Several Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) personnel in Flathead County remained active this week in support of the Office of Emergency Service (OES) and the Flathead County Disaster Care Unit. "The fire situation was helped this weekend with the light rain and moist cool temperatures," said Flathead County EC Don Ross, KJ7IZ. "The Robert Fire (near West Glacier) is somewhat controlled with West Glacier, Lake Five, and Blankenship area evacuation orders lifted." The Robert fire started July 23, and more than 100 homes had to be evacuated during the last week of July. Ross said that over the August 2-3 weekend ARES members maintained communication between OES and the Red Cross shelters. They also handled weather and smoke reports, assisted in the demobilization of the county command center at West Glacier and relayed official information from the OES both by telephone and radio. Amateurs were monitoring 2 meter repeaters from about 7 AM until 10 PM and are equipped for HF operation on 75 meters if it's needed. Meanwhile, Ross said, the Wedge Canyon Fire--a nearly 26,000-acre blaze on the North Fork eight miles south of the Canadian border--remains very active with hot spots in Glacier and the Flathead National Forest. Seven houses have been destroyed, and many more are in harm's way, Ross reports. The fire has been 50 percent contained, however, and some rain fell over the August 2-3 weekend. Montana Section Manager Doug Dunn, K7YD, said recently that many sections of Montana have either been on fire or on guard in recent weeks. ==>LEAGUE DOCUMENTS DIGITAL MODES With a new Web page on digital mode specifications, ARRL hopes to make answering the question "Is that mode legal?" a lot easier. Until 1995, the only permissible digital modes under Part 97 rules were RTTY and modes that used ASCII codes. On November 1 of that year, the FCC--acting on an ARRL petition--agreed to allow the use of any digital mode, providing its technical characteristics were "publicly documented"--§97.309(a)(4)--and the HF digital mode explosion began in earnest. To make finding technical specifications for existing and emerging digital modes more convenient, ARRL now provides technical documentation for many modes now in use on its "§97.309(a)(4) Technical Descriptions" page <http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/techchar/>. "We needed a better place to find whether a technique has been published," said ARRL Technical Relations Manager Paul Rinaldo, W4RI, in explaining the move to make the information more readily available. "A place on the Web seemed to be the best way of letting the amateur community know that a technique is published as well as providing an accurate technical description of what it is." The documentation is adequate to recognize the technique or protocol when observed on the air, to determine the call signs of stations in communication and to read the content of their transmissions. The page currently contains technical descriptions of CLOVER, CLOVER-2000, G-TOR, PACTOR, PACTOR-II and PSK31. Volunteers are developing documentation for MT63, PACTOR-III, MFSK-16 and Q15X25 for later addition. The ARRL invites help from designers, manufacturers, users and user groups to fill in the gaps for additional modes. Send information or inquiries to ARRL Technical Relations Manager Paul Rinaldo, W4RI <firstname.lastname@example.org>. ==>TWO ARRL SECTIONS TO GET NEW SECTION MANAGERS IN OCTOBER New Section Managers will take the reins in San Francisco and Eastern Washington, while several incumbent SMs will start new two-year terms this fall. All candidates ran without opposition in the current election cycle and were declared elected. All terms of office begin October 1. In San Francisco, Bill Hillendahl, KH6GJV, will succeed current SM Len Gwinn,WA6KLK, who did not seek a third term. Hillendahl served as an assistant SM under Gwinn and as an Official Observer and Public Information Officer. In Eastern Washington, Mark Tharp, KB7HDX, will take over from Kyle Pugh, KA7CSP, who decided not to seek another term after 11 years as SM. Tharp has been the Official Observer Coordinator for Eastern Washington since 1994 and has been an OO and Official Emergency Station since 1993. He previously served for more than five years as an Emergency Coordinator. Western Washington got a new SM July 1 when Ed Bruette, N7NVP, was appointed to succeed veteran SM Harry Lewis, W7JWJ, who stepped down with three months remaining on his term. Bruette was the only candidate to succeed Lewis in the current election cycle. Sitting Section Managers in six other ARRL sections were returned to office without opposition. They include Jeff Ryan, K0RM, Colorado; Susan Swiderski, AF4FO, Georgia; Phineas Icenbice, W6BF, Los Angeles; Jettie Hill, W6RFF, Sacramento Valley; Ray Taylor, N5NAV, South Texas; and Hal Turley, KC8FS, West Virginia. Several new Section Managers, including at least three from the current crop, will be at ARRL Headquarters September 6-7 weekend for the Section Managers' Workshop. ==>SOLAR UPDATE Propagation prognosticator Tad "Walking on the Sun" Cook, K7RA, Seattle, Washington, reports: Average daily sunspot numbers and solar flux were up this week compared to last. Geomagnetic indices remained about the same. The quietest day was Tuesday, August 5, when the planetary A index was 9, the high-latitude college A index was only 3, and the college K index actually was zero over two of the three-hour reporting periods and one during four of the periods. The most active geomagnetic day was Wednesday, August 6, when the planetary A index was 43, and the planetary K index rose as high as 7. A day with numbers closer to the norm for a stormy space weather day on earth was Friday, August 1, when the mid-latitude A index was 28, the planetary A index was 37 and the high latitude college A index was 74. The mid and high-latitude and planetary A and K indices for the past four weeks are on the NOAA Daily Geomagnetic Data page <http://www.sec.noaa.gov/ftpdir/indices/DGD.txt>. This weekend is the Worked All Europe DX CW Contest, but the predicted planetary A index for August 8 is 40 and 25 for August 9. This could be a problem for amateurs in the Northwest, because the path to Europe is polar. The predicted solar flux for Friday through Monday, August 8-11 is 130. For more information on propagation and an explanation of the numbers used in this bulletin see the Propagation page on the ARRL Web site <http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/propagation.html>. Sunspot numbers for July 31 through August 6 were 65, 85, 95, 144, 138, 136 and 155, with a mean of 116.9. The 10.7-cm flux was 102.1, 107.3, 111.4, 120, 122.5, 130.6 and 128.7, with a mean of 117.5. Estimated planetary A indices were 32, 37, 21, 15, 14, 9 and 43, with a mean of 24.4. __________________________________ ==>IN BRIEF: * This weekend on the radio: The Worked All Europe (WAE) DX Contest (CW) and the Maryland-DC QSO Party are the weekend of August 10-11. The Six Club Perseids Meteor Shower Contest is August 12-14. JUST AHEAD: The North American QSO Party (SSB), the SARTG World Wide RTTY Contest, the ARRL 10 GHz Cumulative Contest, the Keyman's Club of Japan Contest, the SEANET Contest (CW/SSB/Digital) and the New Jersey QSO Party are the weekend of August 16-17. See the ARRL Contest Branch page <http://www.arrl.org/contests/> and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar <http://www.hornucopia.com/contestcal/index.html> for more info. * ARRL Emergency Communications Course registration: Seats remain available for the Level I ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications on-line course (EC-001) that begins August 19 and is sponsored by the United Technologies Corporation. Registration closes Sunday, August 10, at 12:01 AM or until all seats are filled--whichever occurs first. Registration opens Monday, August 11, 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time (0401 UTC), for the Level II Emergency Communications on-line course (EC-002). Registration remains open through the August 16-17 weekend or until all seats are filled--whichever occurs first. Class begins Tuesday, August 26. Thanks to United Technologies Corporation, the $45 registration fee paid upon enrollment will be reimbursed after successful completion of the Level II course. During this registration period, approximately 75 seats are being offered to ARRL members on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, contact Emergency Communications Course Manager Dan Miller, K3UFG, email@example.com, 860-594-0340. * ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration: Registration for the ARRL Antenna Modeling (EC-004) course opens Monday, August 11, 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time (0401 UTC). Registration will remain open through Sunday, August 17. Class begins Tuesday afternoon, August 19. Those interested in taking an ARRL Certification and Continuing Education (C-CE) course in the future can sign up to be advised via e-mail in advance of registration opportunities. To take advantage, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. On the subject line, indicate the course name or number (eg, EC-00#) and the month you want to start the course. In the message body, provide your name, call sign, and e-mail address. Please do not send inquiries to this mailbox. To learn more, visit the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education Web page <http://www.arrl.org/cce> and the C-CE links found there. For more information, contact Certification and Continuing Education Program Coordinator Howard Robins, W1HSR, email@example.com. * Correction: The ARRL Letter, Vol 22, No 30, reported the wrong dates for The ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference. The 22nd annual ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference will take place September 19-22 in Hartford, Connecticut. * Incident leads to cancellation of ham exam sessions: Ham radio exam sessions--including one set for August 10--at the East Valley Sheriff's Station in Thousand Oaks, California, were put on hold after the site became a crime scene earlier this week. VE Coordinator and PIO for the Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club Jeff Reinhardt, AA6JR, reports that the community room where the VE exams are held every other month was damaged in a shooting incident and--as part of a crime scene--it's off limits to the public until further notice. He said the club hopes to resume its normal exam schedule in October. * Red Cross honors ARRL for Amateur Radio's tornado work: The ARRL has received a certificate of appreciation from the American Red Cross for the "valuable service" League members provided in support of Red Cross efforts after a devastating series of tornados struck Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee and Arkansas on May 4. The certificate specifically acknowledges Amateur Radio operation in Missouri. "Your time and compassion resulted in more than 735 individuals and families being sustained in a time of crisis," wrote ARC National Coordinator of Disaster Volunteers Wendy Kaplan in an accompanying letter also signed by ARC executive vice president for disaster services Terry Sicilia. Amateur Radio and the American Red Cross have a long history of cooperation during disasters. The first Memorandum of Understanding between ARRL and the ARC dates back to 1940. * Ham radio distress call yields help from next state: When 83-year-old Walter Siebert, K3KBR, of Valley Lee, Maryland, started suffering serious chest pains July 15, he called 911. For reasons yet to be determined, no one answered. So Siebert turned to ham radio and put out a cry for help on 75 meters, saying he was having chest pains and needed to go to the hospital. Larry Wheeler, KG4RGN, heard Siebert's plea in Williamsburg, Virginia. At the time, Wheeler was monitoring a net on 3947 kHz as part of Amateur Radio Emergency Service District 7's participation in a Surry Nuclear Power Plant VOPEX (Virginia Operations Plan EXercise) drill. He notified the net to clear the frequency and contacted Siebert to get the necessary details. Wheeler then got in touch with the 911 dispatcher in James City County, Virginia. The 911 dispatcher in turn was able to reach the proper authorities in Maryland and get medical help to Siebert, who was hospitalized. * Committee reports now available on ARRL Web site: Committee reports prepared for the July 2003 ARRL Board of Directors meeting now are available on the ARRL Web site. Visit the July 2003 Committee Reports to the ARRL Board of Directors page <http://www.arrl.org/announce/reports-0307/>. * Vote on QST Cover Plaque Award: The winner of the QST Cover Plaque Award for July was Bart Pulverman, WB6WUW, for his article "Self-Supporting Tower and Antenna Installation." Congratulations, Bart! The winner of the QST Cover Plaque award--given to the author--or authors--of the best article in each issue--is determined by a vote of ARRL members. Voting takes place each month on the QST Cover Plaque Poll Web page <http://www.arrl.org/members-only/qstvote.html>. Cast a ballot for your favorite article in the August issue of QST. Voting ends August 31. * DXCC Annual List deadline approaching: The ARRL DXCC Desk says the deadline to submit applications for the 2003 DXCC Annual List is rapidly approaching. Applications must be postmarked no later than September 30, 2003. For more information, contact DXCC Manager Bill More, NC1L, firstname.lastname@example.org. =========================================================== The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the American Radio Relay League--The National Association For Amateur Radio--225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax 860-594-0259; <http://www.arrl.org>. 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