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The ARRL Letter
January 24, 2019
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ARRL Board of Directors Issues Statement on Amateur Radio Parity Act

At its annual meeting January 18 - 19, the ARRL Board of Directors decided that the organization needs to "review, re-examine, and reappraise ARRL's regulatory and legislative policy with regard to private land use restrictions."

In order to effectively undertake such a review, the Board adopted a resolution to withdraw its December 18 Petition for Rule Making to the FCC, which sought to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to incorporate the provisions of the Amateur Radio Parity Act (ARPA), without prejudice to refiling. The resolution also is asking members of Congress who had refiled legislation to enact the Amateur Radio Parity Act (ARPA) to refrain from seeking to advance that legislation pending further input from ARRL.

Board members noted that ARRL has been pursuing adoption of the ARPA for the past several years, and that objective has not yet been achieved. While everyone understands that getting Congressional approval on any matter can be a lengthy process, the difficultiy getting the ARPA approved has been a source of frustration to the organization and its members. A majority of the Board now believes that there is a need to reassess the organization's approach to this issue.

The Board wants to make clear to its members, and to those whose policies and conduct prevent or impair the right of US Amateur Radio operators to operate from their homes, that this pause is not, and should not be interpreted as an abandonment of its efforts to obtain relief from private land-use restrictions. The Board noted that its intent is "to renew, continue and strengthen the ARRL's effort to achieve relief from such restrictions." This action represents a chance to get the best product possible for all US Amateur Radio operators.

The Board expressed its sincere appreciation to the thousands of ARRL members who took the time to contact their representatives in Congress to urge them to support the Amateur Radio Parity Act. The Board also offered its thanks to those members of Congress who have consistently and continuously supported the rights of US Amateur Radio operators.

New ARRL CEO Wants to "Start a Conversation"

In his first appearance at a ham radio event, ARRL CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX, told Ham Radio University 2019 attendees on January 5 that he was there to initiate a dialogue on what will make ARRL more successful in its missions amid a changing Amateur Radio environment. Michel became ARRL CEO about 3 months ago.

"What I'm here for is to start a conversation," Michel told his audience at New York's Long Island University. "I'm starting conversations everywhere I go to find out, by talking to people, what's really important."

In his view, Michel said, ARRL is a membership organization, a business, and a 501(c)(3) public charity that exists for the public good. "All three of those must exist in balance," he said, adding that the balance has been lost. He said changes need to be made in how ARRL is organized and how it operates, and he made clear during the post-presentation Q&A that he sees himself as an agent of change.

In terms of a membership organization, Michel said ARRL's some 157,000 members, local clubs, and Headquarters staffers should form a three-way partnership, but, he conceded, that the links among those components "are shaky at times," due to a lack of understanding and differing expectations.

Citing ARRL publications as an example, Michel pointed out that the way people get information today is far different than what it was 50 years ago. ARRL's business of the future will be based upon the creation of value. "If we don't create the value and deliver the value, then we're not really an advocate," he said. "ARRL is uniquely positioned to create, curate, and deliver information about Amateur Radio. The way that information is created and delivered is changing, and if we don't change with that, we're not going to be the dominant provider."


ARRL membership is falling behind in terms of a percentage of licensees. "We need to turn that around," Michel said.


In terms of numbers, out of some 30,000 new licensees each year, some 17 - 18% join ARRL, and after 1 year, 61% remain. "Why are we not getting 100% of those new hams?" Michel said. Because 80% of the new licensees took their exams through ARRL VEC, Michel said their lack of interest in joining ARRL suggests "something is wrong in the value proposition." More telling, he continued, is the fact that ARRL membership is falling behind in terms of a percentage of licensees. "We need to turn that around," he said, if ARRL is to continue representing itself as speaking on behalf of Amateur Radio.

Part of the problem lies in current demographic trends in membership. Most ARRL members are Amateur Extra-class licensees, while a larger majority of those who have never been members are Technician licensees. Active radio amateurs are 33% more likely to join ARRL, Michel pointed out. He said a significant majority of non-member Technician licensees have indicated they would like training and support for newcomers, courses for licensing and practical radio operating, training for public service and disaster communication volunteers, and continuing education on technical topics and "online live help" to learn more about ARRL and ham radio.

"We've got them through the test to get their license, and then we've dropped them," Michel said. "We've got to fix that."

The planned approach is recognizing that ARRL members do not represent a monolith, but that each has their own Amateur Radio persona. The spectrum of hams, Michel said, spans communications, service, technology, and hobby.

"Let's think about an average person with some kinds of traits and how you market material to them," Michel proposed. "I'm trying to start a conversation with everybody about how to start something new."

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Amateur Radio Applications Piling Up as Partial Government Shutdown Continues

Volunteer Examiner Coordinators across the US are continuing to receive paperwork from Amateur Radio exam sessions held during the partial government shutdown. While it's still possible to access the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and file applications, the FCC is not processing individual, club, and exam session -- new and upgrade -- Amateur Radio applications. The FCC closed most operations on January 3, when available funding ran out. According to the FCC public notice, aside from a few emergency and auction-filing systems, all other Commission electronic filing systems will be unavailable to the public until normal agency operations resume.

ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM.

"Nothing's moving until the FCC reopens," said ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM. "ARRL VEC continues to enter exam session, individual, and club license data into the system while we wait for the FCC to reopen and normal agency operations to resume. We have approximately 1,600 applications and 125 exam sessions waiting in the queue to be processed. Everything's in there, ready to go."

Somma stressed that, although license upgrade applications are still on hold, current FCC Amateur Radio licensees who have successfully upgraded and hold a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) may operate temporarily using the privileges of their new license class, until their new licenses are granted.

Even though it's not possible for the FCC to grant a new license, a license upgrade, a change of address or other modification, or a vanity call sign application, the Commission Registration System (CORES) remains functional to allow critical radio services to obtain FCC Registration Numbers (FRNs) and file applications during the shutdown. Registering a user name and logging into CORES is required to apply for and receive an FRN, which is a unique 10-digit identifier necessary to conduct business with the FCC and to manage existing FRNs. The FCC said that starting in March, users who already have an FRN from the legacy Commission Registration System will need to create a user name to continue managing their FRNs.

If an Amateur Radio license recently has expired or is about to expire, the licensee can apply for license renewal via the ULS and continue to operate while the FCC is closed. The filed application will remain in limbo until the FCC is back to work. Licensees who wait until the FCC reopens to apply then will have 2 days to submit a renewal application before the license is considered to have expired in the FCC database.

The FCC has said it would not automatically extend deadlines in cases where the license has expired and the 2-year grace period has expired, but said it would "consider whether it is appropriate to do so once normal operations resume."

The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Life Above 50 MHz" is the topic of the current (January 17) episode of the "ARRL The Doctor is In" podcast. Listen...and learn!

Sponsored by DX Engineering, "ARRL The Doctor is In" is an informative discussion of all things technical. Listen on your computer, tablet, or smartphone -- whenever and wherever you like!

Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor-in-Chief Steve Ford, WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range of technical topics. You can also email your questions to doctor@arrl.org, and the Doctor may answer them in a future podcast.

Enjoy "ARRL The Doctor is In" on Apple iTunes, or by using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for "ARRL The Doctor is In"). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required, or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS, Kindle, or Android devices. If you've never listened to a podcast before, download our beginner's guide.

Just ahead: "FT8."

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ARRL Launching New Podcast Geared Toward New Radio Amateurs

For those just getting started on their Amateur Radio journey, ARRL is launching a new podcast aimed at answering your questions, providing support and encouragement for newcomers to get the most out of the hobby. The podcast, "So Now What?," will launch on Thursday, March 7, and new episodes will be posted every other Thursday, alternating new-episode weeks with the "ARRL The Doctor is In" podcast.

Co-hosting "So Now What?" will be ARRL Communications Content Producer Michelle Patnode, W3MVP, and ARRL Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q. Presented as a lively conversation, with Patnode representing newer hams and Carcia the veteran operators, the podcast will explore questions that newer hams may have and the issues that keep participants from staying active in the hobby. Some episodes will feature guests to answer questions on specific topic areas.

"No other podcast is really aimed at this segment of the Amateur Radio community...that is being underserved, that is not getting the answers to the many questions they have," said ARRL Communications Manager David Isgur, N1RSN, who will serve as the podcast's executive producer.

Topics to be discussed in the first several episodes include getting started, operating modes available to Technician licensees, VEC and licensing issues, sunspots and propagation, mobile operating, contesting, Amateur Radio in pop culture, and perceptions of Technician license holders.

Given the growing popularity of podcasts, Isgur believes that providing this information in a podcast format will be a very effective method of reaching out and engaging this particular part of the Amateur Radio community, which is important for building and maintaining Amateur Radio interest and activity.

Patnode said she is excited to ask questions she has about different aspects of Amateur Radio, such as how to incorporate ham radio with newer technologies like Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers, and to learn more about the hobby right along with the audience.

"So What Now?" podcast hosts Michelle Patnode, W3MVP (left), and Joe Carcia, NJ1Q.

Carcia believes the "So Now What?" podcast will be a perfect complement to the podcasts that the ARRL already offers -- "ARRL The Doctor Is In" and "ARRL Audio News."

In addition to serving as co-host, Patnode is also the audio editor/producer of the podcast. ARRL Graphics Department Supervisor Sue Fagan, KB1OKW, designed the podcast logo, and ARRL Radiosport Administrative Manager Sabrina Jackson, KC1JMW, will voice the introduction and closing.

Listeners can find the "So Now What?" podcast at Blubrry.com, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes will also be archived on the ARRL website.

"So Now What?" will be sponsored by LDG Electronics, a family owned and operated business with laboratories in southern Maryland that offers a wide array of antenna tuners and other Amateur Radio products.

Europe's Youngsters on the Air Enthusiasm Breeds Exuberance in US

Some of the enthusiasm engendered by Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) in International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 (Europe and Africa) has spilled over into IARU Region 2 (the Americas). A group of a half-dozen young radio operators calling itself "Team Exuberance" will visit the contest superstation of Tim Duffy, K3LR, in late March for

Youth Contesting Program participants at ES9C in 2016. [Photo courtesy of YOTA]

the CQ World Wide WPX SSB event. The team was inspired in part by YOTA's Youth Contesting Program (YCP) in Europe, which arranges for youthful IARU Region 1 members to participate in contests from top stations. Last year's YCP station hosts included ES5TV, 9A1A, EC2DX, 4O3A, and DM9EE, with more YCP events planned for 2019. YOTA also sponsors an annual summer camp gathering of some 80 young radio amateurs -- this year in Bulgaria -- and the monthly YOTA Youth Sked. A handful of young US radio amateurs have attended recent YOTA summer camps. A similar initiative is the annual Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure (YDXA), which offers a group of young contesters the opportunity to operate from a DX location.

The Young Amateurs Radio Club (YARC) in IARU Region 2 picked up the ball in 2017. Membership is free, and applicants do not have to be licensed. ARRL's Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) also has been generating contesting and operating enthusiasm at campus ham radio clubs.

YARC, which sponsored summer and winter QSO parties in 2018, has offered to coordinate and facilitate station visits between US and Canadian hosts, recruiting operators within easy travel distances of a host station. Station hosts in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America are invited to recruit teams of young operators for contests.

Visit the YARC website to offer your station, or email with station particulars. YARC will try to connect you to young operators in your area, with the rest up to the host and participants. Young radio amateurs may connect with other YARC members via the Young Hams Discord group and via online and HF nets. -- Thanks to The ARRL Contest Update via Ward Silver, N0AX

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Ailing ARISS "HamTV" Transmitter Back on Earth for Inspection, Possible Repair

The malfunctioning Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) "HamTV" transmitter now is back on Earth for repair or replacement, and it likely won't be until sometime in 2020 at the earliest that Amateur Radio TV (DATV) capability will be restored to the orbiting laboratory. Onboard repair was not possible.

European Space Agency Astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI/GB1SS, was the first to use HamTV for an ARISS school contact.

Also known as "Ham Video," the DATV system transmissions were not seen by ARISS ground stations as of last April, and a subsequent test using a second L/S band patch antenna on the ISS Columbus module failed. Since February 2016, the DATV transmitter has served to provide a visual dimension to ARISS school and group ham radio events.

Late last year, the ISS crew packed the HamTV unit and stowed it on the SpaceX-16 Dragon vehicle, which undocked and departed from the ISS on January 13. The HamTV unit returned to Earth when Dragon successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, the first nighttime splashdown and recovery of a Dragon vehicle.

ARISS Ham Project Coordinator Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, told those attending the January ARISS meeting that the HamTV unit would be processed and sent to NASA's Johnson Space Center. In time, ARISS will coordinate shipment of the unit to Kayser-Italia, which built the transmitter, where it will undergo a full failure investigation by ARISS, AMSAT-Italia, and the Kayser-Italia team. Depending on the outcome of the inspection, ARISS will decide the best way to move forward.

ARISS expressed gratitude to NASA, CASIS, and the team working with NASA Ham Payload Integration Manager Mitch Polt for organizing the return of the unit.

Given various handling protocols, the unit is not expected to be received by NASA until this spring, and tests in Europe not completed until this fall.

If the HamTV unit is able to be repaired or refurbished, another wait would ensue. Documentation is required 50 days before a safety certification meeting, and all must be approved 2 months prior to launch, which could take place in a little more than a year. ARISS said it also will prepare for the possibility that repairs are not feasible and be ready to move forward with a new, improved HamTV unit.

FCC Reactivating Equipment Authorization System

The FCC says it will reactivate its Equipment Authorization System (EAS), which had been unavailable since the FCC ran out of funds on January 3 because of the partial government shutdown that began a month ago. RF devices, including Amateur Radio equipment that contains a scanning receiver, and Amateur Radio power amplifiers must be properly authorized before being marketed or imported into the US. The FCC Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) administers the equipment authorization program.

"After reviewing our statutory authority, the status of contract obligations, and our lapse in funding plan, we will be reactivating this system today," the FCC said in a January 18 public notice. "Most radio transmitters are required to be certificated to ensure compliance with the Commission's technical rules."

Certification applications are reviewed and granted by private-sector Telecommunications Certification Bodies (TCBs), which must enter the application and grant of equipment certification into the EAS before the grant becomes effective.

"The reactivation of the EAS will enable the TCBs to grant equipment certifications, thereby allowing that equipment to be imported and marketed in the United States," the FCC said. "While the EAS will be available to the public, no support will be provided by Commission staff."

There are some exceptions. TCBs are required to consult with FCC staff before granting certification for certain products under a procedure called Pre-Approval Guidance (PAG). "This procedure generally involves products where the required tests are complex or break new ground," the FCC said. "TCBs will continue to be unable to grant equipment certification for products subject to the Pre-Approval Guidance procedure until the FCC resumes normal operations and staff is available for consultation."

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In Brief...

Two new Chinese satellites with Amateur Radio payloads are planned for an April 5 launch, CAMSAT has reported. CAS-7A will carry HF/HF (21/29 MHz) and HF/UHF (21/435 MHz) mode linear transponders, VHF/UHF linear and VHF/UHF FM transponders, a UHF CW telemetry beacon, UHF AX.25 4.8k/9.6k baud GMSK telemetry, and 3-centimeter AX.25 1 Mbps GMSK image data transmission for an onboard camera. CAS-7B is described as a 500-millimeter sphere spacecraft weighing 3 kilograms. It will carry a VHF/UHF transponder and a UHF CW telemetry beacon. -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service

A new 2200-meter beacon is on the air from Australia. The Caboolture Radio Club, VK4QD, in Queensland, Australia, is now operating a beacon on 2200 meters on 137.444 kHz using the call sign VK4RBC. Australia's telecommunications authority ACMA has granted permission for continuous operation of the beacon, using WSPR2 (6H00F1D), plus a CW identifier. The power is 1 W EIRP into a 500-meter (1,640-foot) wire at a maximum of 40 meters (131 feet). Located in grid square QG62lw, the VK4RBC beacon also receives, which is unusual for a beacon, and it has copied signals from WH2XND (operated by Ron Douglass, NI7J) in Arizona. In the gaps between transmissions, it will report all WSPR decodes to WSPRnet. Equipment is an Icom IC-718 transceiver and Monitor Sensors TVTR2 2200-meter transverter running 50 W TPO. This is the first Australian beacon that has been granted permission to operate below 28 MHz. "With WH2XND also reliable, we will now see exactly how good the path from USA to VK really is on 2200 meters," Caboolture Radio Club President Roger Crofts, VK4YB, remarked in a news release.

Svalbard (JW) will be on 160 meters this weekend. If you don't already have Svalbard in the log on 160 meters, look for Top Band guru Jeff Briggs, K1ZM/VY2ZM, on the air Saturday night only during the CQ 160-Meter Contest (CW). Briggs said he will call the loudest stations first, then try running later in the night (it will be dark during his entire visit). He notes that every time he's heard Svalbard on 160, there was "massive deep and rapid QSB due to aurora." He said there's a chance he won't be able to use JW5E, and, if so, he'll use JW/K1ZM instead. -- Thanks to The Daily DX

ARISS-International has re-elected its officers. In an email vote, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) International delegates re-elected Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, a ARISS-International Chair; Oliver Amend, DG6BCE, as ARISS-International Vice Chair, and Rosalie White, K1STO, as ARISS-International Secretary-Treasurer. White is also ARISS-US Delegate for ARRL. ARISS-Europe Delegate Bertus Husken, PE1KEH, oversaw the nomination process related to the election of the three ARISS-International officers for the 2019 - 2020 term. More than 83% of the delegates responded, with all voting in favor of the slate of nominees. Because this was a unanimous response and a quorum declared, the nominees were declared elected. The officers began their new terms on January 1.

Hams in Indonesia have three new bands. Indonesia's IARU member-society ORARI reports that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has allocated bands of 135.7 - 137.8 kHz (2200 meters), 472 - 479 kHz (630 meters), and 5.315.5 - 5.366.5 MHz (60 meters), effective on December 31, 2018. The 60-meter band is at a maximum of 15 W EIRP for Advanced and General licensees only. All allocations are on a secondary basis.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Sunspot group 2733 appeared this week on Tuesday, with a sunspot number of 18, and on Wednesday it increased in size with a sunspot number of 19. Sunspot group 2733 is a remnant of old Solar Cycle 24. Average daily sunspot numbers increased from 0 to 5.3 over the reporting week. Average daily solar flux edged up slightly from 69.4 to 69.8. The average daily planetary A index rose from 4.9 to 5.9, while the mid-latitude A index was unchanged at 4.

The predicted solar flux is 72 on January 24 - 27; 70 on January 28 - 30; 71 on January 31 - February 1; 70 on February 2 - 4; 69 on February 5 - 16; 71 on February 17 - 28; 70 on March 1 - 3, and 69 on March 4 - 9.

The planetary A index is predicted at 24, 18, and 10 on January 24 - 26; 5 on January 27 - 31; 15, 12, and 8 on February 1 - 3; 5 on February 4 - 18; then 18, 25, 18, and 10 on February 19 - 22; 5 on February 23 - 26; 10 and 15 on February 27 - 28; 12 and 8 on March 1 - 2, and 5 on March 3 - 9.

Sunspot numbers for January 17 - 23, 2019 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 18, and 19, with a mean of 5.3. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 68.6, 68.8, 69.7, 69.2, 69.9, 70.7, and 71.5, with a mean of 69.8. Estimated planetary A indices were 7, 6, 4, 4, 4, 3, and 13, with a mean of 5.9. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 5, 5, 2, 2, 2, 2, and 10, with a mean of 4.

Share your reports and observations.


Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • January 25 - 27 -- CQ 160-Meter Contest, CW

  • January 26 - 27 -- REF Contest, CW

  • January 26 - 27 -- BARTG RTTY Sprint

  • January 26 - 27 -- UBA DX Contest, SSB

  • January 26 - 27 -- WARC Winter Field Day (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 30 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest, CW

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on Amateur Radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.


Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.


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The ARRL Letter

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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