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ARRL Letter


The ARRL Letter
Vol. 23, No. 31
August 6, 2004


* +North Carolina utility puts BPL on back burner
* +Season's first hurricane leads to net activations
* +Haircuts in space a challenge, astronaut tells kids
* +YV0D DXpedition falls victim to foul weather
* +Ham radio key in at-sea rescue
* +FCC now says new vanity fee effective August 10
* +N0GZ is Digital Communications Conference keynoter
*  Solar Update
     This weekend on the radio
     ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration
     ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications course registration
    +FCC no longer issuing certain 2x3-format vanity call signs
     ARRL International EME Competition changes okayed
     FCC expands Universal Licensing System Hotline Support
     AMSAT-UK announces new amateur satellite project
     County hunters turn to 30 meters with sunspot decline

+Available on ARRL Audio News



Progress Energy Corporation (PEC) says it's completed Phase II of its
broadband over power line (BPL) field trial in the Raleigh, North
Carolina, area. In an August 4 PEC internal memorandum made available to
ARRL, the company said its program to "test the viability of providing
broadband service to communities it serves" will wrap up by the end of
August. The company reportedly will shut down the system once it's able to
move its BPL customers to other broadband providers.

"Currently, the company does not have plans for a large-scale commercial
rollout of BPL in the company's service territories," the memorandum
states. Progress Energy's decision comes on the heels of announced
shutdowns of BPL field trials in Penn Yan, New York, and Cedar Rapids,

PEC Vice President of Energy Delivery Solutions Lisa Myers said the
utility obtained significant information about the design, construction
and operation of a BPL system. "Overall, this has been a successful test
for us," the memorandum quotes her as saying. "We have gathered valuable
information about broadband over power lines and its potential."

During its six-month Phase I and Phase II tests, the utility says it
offered broadband service to more than 400 homes in southern Wake County.
Earlier this year, FCC Chairman Michael Powell visited the BPL field trial
to promote the technology, and local radio amateurs spoke briefly with him
about their interference concerns.

The PEC memorandum acknowledged Amateur Radio interference complaints.
"BPL has met with vocal opposition from amateur or 'ham' radio operators
who are concerned that the service will interfere with the radio
frequencies they use," it said. "Some complaints were filed with the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during Phase II by ham radio
operators using mobile equipment in search of BPL signals."

Responding to one amateur's complaint, the FCC earlier this summer took
measurements in the field trial area. FCC Office of Engineering and
Technology (OET) Deputy Chief Bruce A. Franca said the FCC concluded that
PEC's BPL trial "is in compliance" with FCC rules and that the company's
ham band notching efforts "are effective" to avoid the potential for
harmful interference. The ARRL has requested clarification of certain
claims made in Franca's July 22 letter, however. The memorandum cites PEC
Director of Emerging Technologies Matt Oja as saying the technology PEC
selected--by Amperion--"allowed us to address all complaints by changing
the settings to mitigate interference."

One of the amateurs who's been closely monitoring PEC's foray into
BPL--Gary Pearce, KN4AQ--says he's pleased with the utility's decision.
"It's a positive thing for ham radio that Progress Energy is not going to
be pursuing BPL for whatever reason they decided not to do it," Pearce
told ARRL. "It's going to make a lot of hams in Eastern North Carolina

Pearce acknowledged that Progress Energy and Amperion personnel worked
closely with local amateurs to notch out interference on HF amateur
frequencies. Effective notching turned out to be more difficult than
anticipated, however. Even following the FCC's visit to take measurements,
amateurs continued to report strong BPL interference on the high end of 20
meters as well as in the HF international broadcast bands.

A news report on Progress Energy's BPL decision appeared in the August 6
editions of the Raleigh News & Observer

There's more information about BPL and Amateur Radio on the ARRL Web site


The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) <> activated on 14.325 MHz
August 3 as Hurricane Alex threatened North Carolina's Outer Banks. The
first hurricane of the Atlantic Tropical Weather Season, Alex had been
expected to remain a tropical storm. Instead, it turned into a Category 2
hurricane packing sustained winds of 100 MPH with higher gusts. At one
point, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported that Alex was
moving almost parallel to North Carolina's Outer Banks, which includes
areas still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Isabel
last year.

"During our eight-hour net, we received numerous reports from the Outer
Banks of North Carolina," says HWN Assistant Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV.
"Band conditions were not the best due to fading and atmospheric noise."

Heavy rains led to flooding, and thousands of tourists had to be evacuated
from the Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island. Power was knocked out in some
areas. Salvation Army teams aided those stranded by the storm.

One station quite a distance from the excitement, Jim Idelson, K1IR, in
Massachusetts, nonetheless was able to help out when a weak station in
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, tried to check into the HWN but was not
being heard. "I offered to relay," said Idelson, whose station sports
20-meter stacked beams. "The station in Cape Hatteras was on emergency
power and running a G5RV that was coming down in the winds," he said in a
posting to the Yankee Clipper Contest Club <>
reflector. The North Carolina station also turned out to be a primary
source of weather data for the HWN, and Idelson said he spent a couple of
hours relaying reports to WX4NHC.

Graves said that given the number of net members throughout the US,
Canada, the Caribbean, Honduras and Mexico, the HWN was able to switch net
control stations as needed to maintain contact with the affected area in
the path of Hurricane Alex.

At the National Hurricane Center Assistant Amateur Radio Coordinator Julio
Ripoll, WD4R, says several of the surface reports received via the
Center's WX4NHC were cited in the various hurricane advisories.

"The hurricane forecasters are always interested in what is actually
happening on the ground, as it happens," he notes. "It helps them
visualize the storms' effect on people and property as they analyze
scientific data."

According to Ripoll, the new VOIPWX Net <>, which
combines IRLP and EchoLink has been a tremendous asset. "This has opened
up a whole new resource of stations, VHF/UHF/Mobile/Techs, that we would
have not heard of on HF," he said.

The HWN and WX4NHC subsequently turned their attention to Tropical
Depression 2, which failed to develop into a serious storm. "After a quiet
June and July, it appears that August is the awakening month for the
Atlantic Tropical Season," Graves said.

During hurricane emergencies trained HWN members provide essential
communication support to WX4NHC, which disseminates storm updates via the
net. The HWN also collects observed or measured weather data and
post-storm damage reports from Amateur Radio operators in the affected
areas and relays that information to forecasters via WX4NHC. The
ground-level weather data assists NHC forecasters in predicting a storm's
path and behavior.


The lack of gravity aboard the International Space Station makes it a bit
more difficult to stay well groomed in space, according to NASA ISS
Science Officer Mike Fincke, KE5AIT. During an Amateur Radio on the
International Space Station (ARISS) contact July 29, the astronaut
answered a series of questions put to him by students in Habikino, Japan.
Fincke, who responded in both Japanese and English, said he and crewmate
Gennady Padalka, RN3DT, give each other a haircut about once a month.

"But we have to use a vacuum cleaner nearby to catch all the hair," said
Fincke, at the controls of NA1SS and carefully enunciating his English.
"If we did not, then all of the hair would float around the space station
and not be very good."

As have others, another student wanted to know what Fincke thought about
the view of Earth from space.

"Everything is quite beautiful," he answered. "We have a very beautiful
planet--not only the country of Japan but many other places are very
beautiful." In a later reply, Fincke said when he first saw "Mother Earth"
from the ISS, "It was all my dreams coming true."

Fincke advised the students to study math and the sciences as well as
foreign languages if they have aspirations to become astronauts.

The sponsoring Council on Sound Development of Schoolchildren in Habikino
used the special call sign 8N3ARISS for the direct 2-meter Earth-space
contact. It marked the first time a five-letter suffix call sign was used
in Japan. At the 8N3ARISS controls was Junki Okuda, JL3JRY.

Nearly two dozen students participated in the ARISS QSO, and Fincke got to
answer 16 of their questions before the ISS went out of range. An audience
of nearly 400 was on hand for the event.

ARISS in an international educational outreach with US participation by


Disappointing news for DXers hoping to check another rare one off their
lists. With bad weather headed its way, the YV0D Aves Island DXpedition
shut down a couple of days early. YV0D went silent August 4 at 1045 UTC.
Aves Island is one of the top-10 most-wanted DXCC entities.

Team member Martti Laine, OH2BH, informed the 20-meter SSB pileup early on
August 4 that YV0D would not be staying until August 6 as planned. "We are
going QRT in the morning," he said. "The weather is very bad. A storm is

Despite the shorter-than-expected operation, YV0D logged some 18,500
QSOs--including a number of 6-meter QSOs during an opening--in around 59
hours of operation, according to The Daily DX <>.
Radio Club Venezolano Vice President Haroldo Rodriguez, YV5BD, told The
Daily DX that the YV0D team had to brave 5-meter waves when departing Aves
Island aboard a Venezuelan Navy vessel, expected back in Venezuela August

The YV0D operators on the air August 1 and at one point had established
seven operating positions--although not all were on the air at the same
time. According to The Daily DX, the 12-member DXpedition team never did
get antennas erected for 160 and 80 meters. Operations concentrated
largely on 40, 30, 20, 15 and 12 meters on CW, SSB and RTTY. Antennas were
installed for satellite work as well as for 6, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40
meters, The Daily DX reported.

Forecasters worried that a tropical depression headed right in the
direction of Aves Island might develop into a tropical storm. The island
rises only a few meters above sea level. Squalls and locally heavy rain
were associated with the storm.

The Aves Island YV0D DXpedition plans to upload its logs to ARRL's Logbook
of the World <>. The QSL manager of the DXpedition
is Dianna Killeen, KB6NAN, POB 911, Pescadero, CA 94060-0911. Include a
self-addressed stamped envelope (US stations) or a self-addressed envelope
and appropriate return postage (non-US stations) with QSLs. The DXpedition
also will accept cards via the bureau.


Amateur Radio operators in the US, French Polynesia and Australia played
an vital role in the successful late-June rescue of a couple aboard a
privately owned sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. The drama began June 25
after John Caine, VK4CEJ, in Queensland, Australia, checked into the
Pacific Seafarers Net on 14.313 MHz with emergency traffic from the
47-foot sailing ketch Fingolfin, some 680 nautical miles north of Nuka
Hiva in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. A young Australian
couple, John and Kelly Hallows, were on their way from Mexico to the
Marquesas. With the trip taking longer than anticipated, however, John
Hallows had run out of a required medication and was experiencing
debilitating pain.

Through Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) <> member
Bob Botik, K5SIV, in Austin, Texas, the US Coast Guard in Honolulu and a
shipping firm, arrangements were made for a Greek container vessel to
rendezvous with the Fingolfin and transfer the needed medication.
Unfortunately, the larger vessel struck and badly damaged the ketch during
the transfer. To add insult to injury, the medication transferred turned
out to be the wrong one. Eventually several other radio amateurs became
part of the unfolding drama, but Botik found himself as a key player.

The Coast Guard was in touch with the French Navy to effect a rescue, but
the situation aboard the Fingolfin continued to deteriorate. John Hallows
no longer was no longer able to assist in piloting the damaged vessel, and
his wife, injured during the collision with the container vessel, was in
pain and exhausted. Both also were suffering symptoms of dehydration. An
hourly radio schedule with the Fingolfin was maintained, with stations
staying on frequency after the MMSN shut down.

The next day, Botik patched Dr Jim Hirschman, K4TCV, in Miami to the
Fingolfin so Hirschman could attempt a medical assessment. Due to the
couple's condition, evacuation became imperative. A French Navy patrol
vessel came on 14.300 MHz to advise it was on its way to the Fingolfin's
last-known position. Via VK4CEJ and K5SIV, a series of questions and
answers to and from the Fingolfin were relayed to the patrol boat.

The Fingolfin's situation continued to worsen. The vessel was taking on
water and eventually lost both masts and its only lifeboat. Amateurs on
frequency advised the Fingolfin to stay on frequency no matter what.

A few hours later, the increasingly stressed, demoralized and desperate
couple made contact with Gary Walls, KE6SD/mm, aboard the S/V Amidon Light
in Suwarrow Atoll and with Bill Healy, N6JRD/mm, in the Pacific. The two
amateurs attempted to lift their spirits to get them through the crisis.

The French patrol boat finally reached the Fingolfin on June 27 and took
the couple aboard, but the sailboat had to be scuttled. The couple was
hospitalized and later released.

Botik received a letter of appreciation in July from Rear Adm C. D.
Wurster of the US Coast Guard in Honolulu.

"Your efforts and skills in radio communications directly resulted in the
safe rescue of two personnel," Wurster said. He also applauded Botik's
"unselfish devotion and commitment to aiding others in distress."

A more detailed account of the Fingolfin rescue is available on the MMSN
Web site <>.--MMSN Assistant Net
Manager Tom Job, VE3II


Hold the phone! The FCC apparently can preempt The Federal Register when
it comes to setting effective dates for orders. Commission personnel have
clarified that the new Amateur Radio vanity call sign regulatory fee of
$20.80 for the 10-year license term actually will become effective
Tuesday, August 10, not Friday, August 6 as ARRL and others had announced
based on information in The Federal Register.

A staff member at the FCC's Gettysburg office told ARRL that the
Commission's computer system has been programmed to accept the new fee
starting August 10. A management-level staffer in the FCC's Office of
Managing Director explained that the Commission was not necessarily bound
by the August 6 effective date The Federal Register indicates, which is 30
days after publication of the order containing the new fee schedule.

Applicants for amateur vanity call signs will continue to pay the $16.30
fee per vanity call sign application until the new fee goes into effect.
All applications received at the FCC on or after Tuesday, August 10 must
be accompanied by the new, higher fee.


Noted engineer, entrepreneur and radio amateur Ken Kaplan, N0GZ, will be
the banquet speaker at the 2004 Digital Communications Conference
September 10-12 in Des Moines, Iowa. The ARRL and TAPR--Tucson Amateur
Packet Radio--will co-host the 23rd annual gathering.

In 1977, Kaplan and a colleague from Drake University started Microware
Systems, a small company capitalizing on the then relatively rare field of
designing microprocessor-based products. Microware soon developed a
real-time operating system called OS-9, especially designed for embedded
microprocessor-controlled products. The company also offered software
development tools as well as professional services for contract research
and development.

Until Microware Systems' acquisition by Radisys Corporation, Kaplan served
as the president and CEO of the company. He was vice president and general
manager of Radisys's Microware Division until his retirement in 2002.

An ARRL member, Kaplan is an avid Amateur Radio operator who was first
licensed in 1967 while in high school. His favorite ham radio activities
include UHF communication and building his own equipment.

The TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference will be held at the
Holiday Inn Des Moines-Airport and Conference Center, 6111 Fleur Drive,
Des Moines. Conference registration details and updates are available on
the TAPR Web site <> or by contacting conference
organizer Steven Bible, N7HPR,; 602-502-4808.


Propagation prognosticator Tad "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" Cook,
K7RA, Seattle, Washington, reports: Average daily sunspot and solar flux
numbers dropped dramatically from last week to this week. Average daily
sunspot numbers were nearly 56 points lower at 42.4, and average solar
flux was down more than 53 points at 88.

Geomagnetic conditions have been nice and quiet over the past week, with
the A index in the low single digits and periods when the K index was zero
at all latitudes. Over this weekend, we could see a rise in geomagnetic
activity to unsettled levels. The predicted planetary A index for August
6-10 is 8, 15, 15, 15 and 8.

Solar flux is expected to remain under 100 over the August 7-8 weekend but
slowly rise to a predicted peak of around 120 August 14-19. An increase in
activity after August 12 is expected because of the return of Sunspot 652.

Sunspot numbers for July 29 through August 4 were 32, 33, 39, 40, 39, 52
and 62, with a mean of 42.4. The 10.7 cm flux was 99.7, 88.7, 86.4, 83.4,
84.5, 87.6 and 85.4, with a mean of 88. Estimated planetary A indices were
9, 7, 9, 8, 8, 5 and 4, with a mean of 7.1. Estimated mid-latitude A
indices were 6, 7, 7, 9, 5, 2 and 2, with a mean of 5.4.



* This weekend on the radio: The North American QSO Party (CW), the ARRL
UHF Contest, the TARA Grid Dip Contest, the 10-10 International Summer
Contest (SSB), National Lighthouse Weekend QSO Contest and the European HF
Championship are the weekend of August 7-8. JUST AHEAD: The Worked All
Europe (WAE) DX Contest (CW) and the Maryland-DC QSO Party are the weekend
of August 14-15. See the ARRL Contest Branch page
<> and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar
<> for more info.

* ARRL Certification and Continuing Education course registration:
Registration for the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Level I
on-line course (EC-001) remains open thru Sunday, August 8, or until all
seats are filled. Registration for the Technician Licensing course
(EC-010) remains open through Sunday, August 8. Classes begin Tuesday,
August 17. With the assistance of a mentor, EC-010 students learn
everything they need to know to pass the FCC Technician license class
test. Prospective C-CE students, please note: As of September, the
starting day for all C-CE classes, including Amateur Radio Emergency
Communication courses, will move from Tuesday to Friday. To learn more,
visit the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education Web page
<> or contact the ARRL Certification and
Continuing Education Program Department <>;.

* Amateur Radio Emergency Communications course registration: Registration
for the ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Level II on-line
course (EC-002) opens Monday, August 9, at 12:01 AM EDT and will remain
open through the August 14-15 weekend or until all available seats have
been filled--whichever comes first. Class begins Tuesday, August 24.
Thanks to our grant sponsor--the United Technologies Corporation--the $45
registration fee paid upon enrollment will be reimbursed after successful
completion of the course. During this registration period, seats are being
offered to ARRL members on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn
more, visit the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education Web page
<>. For more information, contact Emergency
Communications Course Manager Dan Miller, K3UFG,;

* FCC no longer issuing certain 2x3-format vanity call signs: The FCC has
ceased issuing 2x3-format Amateur Radio vanity call signs that begin with
the prefixes WC, WR, WK and WT (eg, WR1AAA, WC4ZZZ). The Commission
erroneously granted more than 150 WR and WC-prefix 2x3 vanity call signs
from 1997 through September 2003, after which it began rejecting such call
sign requests. In the late 1970s, the FCC announced a new Amateur Service
call sign assignment system. It provided four standard call sign groups,
designated Group A, B, C and D, delineated by license class and issued
sequentially with no backfilling. The FCC's Bill Cross, W3TN, recently
told the nation's volunteer examiner coordinators (VECs) that the FCC also
had a "Group X." These included WC (RACES), WR (repeater), WK and
WT-prefix 2x3-format call signs reportedly reserved for special-use
licenses. The FCC stopped issuing repeater call signs in 1983 and ceased
renewing RACES licenses in 2000. After the current vanity program began in
1996, several ham clubs sought new and formerly held repeater and
RACES-type call signs. When the Universal Licensing System came along in
August 1999, however, the FCC encountered some licensing system
programming shortcomings, including the anomalous assignments of WC and
WR-prefix 2x3 call signs as acceptable formats. When the FCC implemented
programming corrections that halted the issuance of Group X call signs in
September 2003, it did not advise the amateur community. As a result,
several amateurs who filed for 2x3 WC or WR-prefix call signs had their
applications dismissed with the explanation that the applicant's call sign
choice was unavailable. That remains the case. The FCC has not indicated
whether it plans to address the WC and WR-prefix 2x3 call signs it's
already issued.

* ARRL International EME Competition changes okayed: The ARRL Programs and
Services Committee has approved some changes to the ARRL International EME
Competition. The object of the event is to make two-way communication via
the earth-moon-earth path on any authorized amateur frequency above 50
MHz. It now will span three weekends, with the first and third weekends
devoted to the lower VHF/UHF bands, 50-1296 MHz, while the second weekend
will be for 2304 MHz and higher. For 2004, October 9-10 will be 50-1296
MHz; October 30-31 will be 2304 MHz and up, and December 4-5 will again be
50-1296 MHz. Multipliers for stations within the US are now states; in
Canada, multipliers are provinces and territories. There also are new
entry categories starting with this fall's event: Single operator,
multiband 50-1296; single operator, multiband 2304 and above;
multioperator, multiband 50-1296; and multioperator, multiband 2304 and
above. In addition, US and Canadian stations no longer have to send the
portable designator if operating from a different call sign district. The
new rules have been posted on the ARRL Contest Branch Rules page

* FCC expands Universal Licensing System Hotline Support: The FCC has
announced expanded hours for its Universal Licensing System (ULS)
<> Hotline Support. ULS users now may reach
the FCC ULS Hotline by phone--toll-free, 877-480-3201 or local,
717-338-2888 (Amateur Service callers select Option 2)--from 8 AM until 7
PM Eastern Time except on federal holidays. ULS Hotline Support also is
available via e-mail <>;. Contact ULS Hotline Support if you
have questions about which applications to use, what information is being
requested on a ULS form or schedule or any other ULS-related licensing
matter. The FCC continues to provide ULS technical support weekdays from 8
AM until 6 PM Eastern time. Call toll-free, 877-480-3701 or local,
202-414-1250 (TTY 202-414-1255). Technical Support handles questions
concerning computer access to ULS, uploading files, submitting attachments
to ULS filings and FRN passwords. The FCC notes that all calls to the ULS
hotlines are recorded.--FCC

* AMSAT-UK announces new amateur satellite project: AMSAT-UK has announced
that an Amateur Radio transponder will be part of the European Space
Agency's (ESA) Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative (SSETI)
"Express" satellite. Onboard will be a 2.4 GHz transmitter and a 437 MHz
receiver. The pair will be turned into an amateur FM voice transponder
after the transmitter serves initial telemetry duty. "These frequencies
will enable the many amateurs who already have AMSAT OSCAR 40 equipment to
use it in an exciting new way," AMSAT-UK Chairman Martin Sweeting, G3YJO,
said. He told participants at the 2004 AMSAT-UK Colloquium July 30-August
1 that AMSAT-UK has arranged with the ESA to provide--at very short
notice--an S band transmitter for the SSETI Express. The 2.4 GHZ
transmitter will become the downlink of the single-channel FM U/S
transponder. Holger Eckart, DF2FQ, will provide the UHF receiver. An
AMSAT-UK team is developing the 2.4 GHz downlink exciter, switching-mode
power supply and control interfaces. A 3 W 2.4 GHz power
amplifier--identical to the one flying in the recently launched AO-51
"Echo" satellite--already has been completed. The S band antennas consist
of three flat-plate patches. The SSETI Express is believed to be the
first-ever Pan-European student satellite, with more than 100 students and
their teachers at several European universities taking part. Spacecraft
integration is due to start this month, and plans call for launching the
satellite into a 680 km sun-synchronous orbit next April from Russia.

* County hunters turn to 30 meters with sunspot decline: County hunting
enthusiasts have begun using 30 meters (10.114 MHz) for their CW
activities. "With the decline of sunspot activity and worsening
propagation on 20 meters, county hunters have established the new
frequency for working mobile stations around the US," says Bob Voss, N4CD.
"All are welcome to join in and work the mobiles as they travel through
the 3077 counties in the USA giving out contacts." The new 10.114 MHz
frequency joins the 20 and 40-meter CW county hunting frequencies of
14.0565 MHz and 7.039 MHz. CQ sponsors the USA Counties Award (USA-CA)
program. More information is on the County Hunters Web site

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;
<>. Jim Haynie, W5JBP, President.

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly e-mail digest of essential news of
interest to active amateurs. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely,
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the latest news, updated as it happens. The ARRL Web site
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columns. ARRL Audio News <> is a
weekly "ham radio newscast" compiled from The ARRL Letter.

Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or
in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be given to
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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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