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Topic Created Posts Views Last Activity
The Future of Amateur Radio Aug 16th, 12:35 2 62 1 week ago
Power Line Noise Interference - Automatic Meter Reading BBOP type system May 28th, 13:55 1 392 on 28/5/19
ARRL, FCC Discussing Issue of Uncertified Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers Oct 4th 2018, 11:17 5 1,630 on 18/11/18
FCC Dismisses Two Petitions from Radio Amateurs Jan 8th 2017, 18:51 3 2,468 on 4/4/17

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The Future of Amateur Radio WD3D 1 week ago
Digging Deep Into AM Revitalization - by CHRIS IMLAY ⋅ JAN 15, 2013 Radio World..

Comments about broadcast AM radio - also relates directly to amateur radio today on the HF bands.

Chris said - it seems to me that AM will never get better in the worsening RF noise environment in the bands below 30 MHz. Some regulatory relief is necessary.

The current commission and its recent predecessors have focused their attention on maximizing efficiency in use of the fully deployed radio spectrum by such regulatory concepts as spectrum overlays, receiver noise temperature and authorizations for unlicensed, “Part 15” RF devices and systems that neither demand interference protection nor are permitted by rule to cause harmful interference.

All of these concepts have their place. But the commission does not have a good handle on ambient RF noise levels and trends over time; it has uneven regulations governing noise-generating intentional, incidental and unintentional radiators; and its enforcement efforts in this context are both impractical and insufficient.
AM listeners have media options. RF noise will make them exercise those options. They are not like radio amateurs, who will complain vocally when a power line causes interference to their receivers. When an AM listener receives interference, he or she will not suffer it but simply utilize different media. FCC interference resolution is premised on complaints, so AM broadcast band interference is not well-documented.

Even if AM interference complaints were to be lodged, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau is not equipped to deal with them. Adequate staff does not exist, and attrition through retirement and hiring freezes has left FCC District Offices understaffed. Nor is interference from Part 15 devices to AM receivers addressed at the manufacturer level.

It is the user of the device who is required to adhere to the non-interference requirement in the Part 15 rules. That simply doesn’t work. Part 15 device users typically are non-technical persons with no interference resolution capabilities and no incentive to assist in resolving the problems, even if any might happen to be reported to them by an AM listener.

Add to that the inherent difficulty in finding the source of RF noise from unlicensed (or licensed) RF devices, and it becomes painfully apparent that RF noise from unlicensed Part 15 devices (and Part 18 Industrial, Scientific and Medical devices) is a large and — in the field — unmanageable problem.

Commissioner Pai asked what deregulatory efforts can be implemented to help AM revitalization. Respectfully, I think the better question is what regulations can be added, and what existing regulations can be better enforced, in order to improve ambient noise conditions in the existing AM band.

It is obvious that any interference management plan for the AM band has to be based on rules which limit RF noise before it becomes an issue, not posthoc, and those rules have to be enforced. A few options come to mind immediately, and surely this is just a sampling.

Key points

1. Radiated emission limits below 30 MHz in FCC Part 15 rules for unintentional emitters such as plasma TVs:

At present, there are no radiated emission limits below 30 MHz for most unintentional emitters. Only conducted limits exist now. This has become a short-range problem with respect to interference from some emitters, such as plasma TVs. Direct radiation at MF and HF from a plasma display can be problematic and difficult to fix.

The commission should consider establishing limits on the amount of noise that can be radiated directly from such devices.

2. Lower limits in Part 15 for LED light bulbs, harmonized with the lower limits for fluorescent bulbs in Part 18 rules:

Part 18 rules govern fluorescent bulbs. Those Part 18 limits are lower than the Part 15 limits, which govern LED bulbs. The Part 15 LED bulbs typically operate at levels 12 dB higher than Part 18 fluorescent bulbs.

All of the reasons that caused the commission to establish reasonably low limits for fluorescent bulbs exist for LED bulbs. There are apparently very few, if any interference reports involving fluorescent bulbs that meet Part 18 consumer limits. There are, however, substantial numbers of complaints of harmful interference to amateur radio stations from LED light bulbs on an annual basis.

This is a good example of an RF management problem that must be addressed before the devices are marketed. There could be dozens, if not hundreds, of RF light bulbs in range of a typical AM broadcast receiver in a typical residential neighborhood. If harmful interference occurs and is reported, there is no real post hoc solution.

Filtering of the bulb is not an option. They couldn’t all be found, even if someone with the authority to regulate these was to be willing to try. Even if they were, would the user of an RF light bulb that contributed to AM receiver interference be ordered to stop using it? Surely not.

3. Better external labeling on packaging for Part 18 fluorescent bulbs and ballasts:

Part 18 rules have separate limits for consumer and commercial fluorescent devices. A number of box stores and large hardware and consumer retailers, including some well-known nationwide chains are openly selling commercial fluorescent bulbs and ballasts to residential consumer users.

Currently, there is no information on the outside of the packaging for these devices indicating that they are not legal to use in residential environments. These same big box stores are all selling Class A industrial lighting ballasts. There is material in the FCC’s “knowledge database” (KDB) that makes it clear that such marketing is not legal and that the labeling, or even signage and warning is not enough.

If this policy (it is not a specific rule) were to be enforced, the big box store would claim that they can sell commercial environment ballasts because they also sell them to buyers for that market, but the devices are on display and the general public is not informed of the proper environment to deploy them.

Under present FCC rules, there are no specific emission limits for incidental emitters such as power lines and non-pulsed motors. There are requirements for manufacturers of incidental emitters to use good engineering practice and a requirement that the operator of an incidental emitter use them in a way that does not cause harmful interference to licensed users of spectrum.

Those rules are neither enforced, however, nor practically enforceable. Specific emission limits would set an upper level on the worst of the power-line noise cases and would require manufacturers to pay at least minimal attention to design and utilities to evaluate their entire systems at least sporadically, assuming that they perceive that there is a risk of actual FCC enforcement.

Although conducted-emission limits could be established for motors and similar 120- or 240-volt devices, only radiated limits would be practical for medium- or high-voltage power lines.

5. Establish conducted emission limits on pulse-width motor controllers used in appliances:

Under Part 15 rules, “digital devices” used in appliances are exempt from specific emissions limits. There are instances of interference from pulse-width motor controllers in washing machines, air conditioners and pool pumps.

If pulse-width motor controllers are digital devices, then these 500- to 1500-watt digital devices would be exempt. Most digital devices that are used in appliances are very low power display units, microprocessor control circuitry and similar devices which have a much lower interference potential than 1,500-watt motor controllers.

6. Increase and enhance the visibility of FCC enforcement in power line interference cases:

There are numerous complaints from amateur radio operators of severe interference from power line noise annually. The commission has relied almost completely on the good-faith efforts of electric utilities to resolve these, and in some cases those efforts have been successful.

However, more often, utilities do not have available to them or are not willing to retain persons skilled in RF interference resolution and the cases at FCC are allowed to languish unresolved for years, and in some cases more than a decade, without any enforcement action at all. As discussed, AM radio interference will inevitably go unreported by listeners.

A few visible enforcement actions by the commission would get the attention of the utility industry and perhaps lead to the development of effective industry programs to address the burgeoning power line interference problem.

These are but a few suggestions for improvement in the noise environment in the AM broadcast band now. Before (or while) considering across-the-board power increases for AM stations (with attendant interference problems during sunspot minima), migration to TV Channel 5, increased use of FM translators for AM stations, or other major initiatives, it would be well to get to the root of the AM problem, which is down in the noise.

Chris Imlay works at the law practice Booth, Freret, Imlay & Tepper and serves as general counsel for the Society of Broadcast Engineers. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the SBE board of directors.

The Future of Amateur Radio WD3D 1 week ago
Amateur Radio - like any other technology based hobby, must be viewed like everything else today through the lens of the 21'st Century. In my opinion - there are two types of hams, the prospective and the reflective. The Prospective are harmful to the hobby - are the ones that lives in the present, who accepts social change and new technology, and who doesn't view themselves as a ham at all.. The Reflective views technology as a curse, something that must be tolerated for the hobby to endure. They are the type of person that honors their founders and wishes a return to the idyllic pre digital era or intrusion on their hallowed bandwidth.. The Reflective just wants to be left alone, to a hobby that allows them to experiment, without having new things shoved down their throat.. Without having these new - intruders to their bands, that are just there to see what they can steal for themselves.. No preponderance of evidence exists that proves that anything that these new hams brought into this hobby was created to preserve the existence of this hobby. For those with half a brain in their head, can clearly see that even as early as the 1970's when the FM Repeater craze took over our VHF bands that it wasn't for the good of the hobby.. That it clearly was just a bunch of techno geeks that were just looking for unclaimed bandwidth that they could use to experiment to prove the technology needed to build cellular networks.. Which was the whole purpose of Packet - to find a way to link up via RF - computers and their users and develop the technology necessary to build cellular radio sites, entice the users to transition from ham radio to cellular telephone and market a product that John Q. Public was willing to pay a premium price for. The shortsightedness of the land line telephone company's to develop this technology on their own was only due to the fact that profits dictated that they keep doing what they were doing as opposed to change - which would have cost the parent company huge profits vs the strangulation grip telephone companies had on communications.. By the time John Q. Public realized that the phone companies were screwing them, the citizens band radio took over, enabling John Q. Public to use radio waves to talk while mobile vs a landline telephone - that only worked - if you had the money to pay the bill. hence Beepers - were the mobile platform that allowed a compromise, a person could communicate with others via simple text messages and return their calls via landline communications.. Generation 1 cell phones - released as early as 1982 were not much more than the 2 meter walkie talkies most of the newer LID Technician and Novice amateur radio license holders embraced, paying as much as $500 for a programmable 10 channel handheld.. Maybe all this makes me smile, since I am the only one here to realize that what I heard on my programmable scanner on the 800 Mhz bands was nothing more than what I hear today on the 2 meter repeaters.. The Digital Modes being released - just as an appeasement to their desires to be "Real Hams". But not having the available means to do so, since discreet components were removed years ago from their amateur radio products.. So the only thing left was to build their own antennas and use their handhelds to communicate with satellites.. The Digital Modes being nothing more than a way for them to communicate with others without having to say or do anything - just press a button on their keyboard and watch the screen.. Maybe the animosity isn't in the realization in the fact that most people has forgotten how to talk to strangers and most people has resorted to texting vs actual human interaction. Its easier to just ignore someone that does or says something that hurts my feelings, and I can tune someone out when they do or say something that offends me.. Now we are a society of non hams, that are only out for what we can steal for ourselves.. Which in my opinion is not society at all.
Power Line Noise Interference - Automatic Meter Reading BBOP type system WD3D on 28/5/19
Ok, so I complained about Power Line Noise 5+ years ago. I had a laundry list of complaints.. i notified the appropriate agencies and really never did get the problem resolved.. I must have stirred up a Hornets nest because I did get some action from both Pennsylvania American Water and United Electric Co Op Inc - Dubois PA..
5 years ago, the situation was that PA American Water was using some type of RF signal - telemetry - between their pumping stations and their water tanks. The noise was so bad that when you got to within 1/4 of a mile from either one the overload was severe - would even drown out XM radio in the vehicle, 2 meters had birdies on several frequencies, all the way into the HF.. The electric company was using something called "The Turtle System:" Some type of crappy meter reading system that used the power line and the neutral to gather the meter readings - 24 hours a day.. The company tried to BS me and after I walked the line 2 miles and took pictures, documenting field strength readings and visual problems with the line, it wasn't very long before PA American Water was putting up 20' Rohn 25G towers with directional antennas and United Electric shut off the Turtle.. There was no correspondence between them and me.. I was a full time student at Penn State U and I did not have a lot of time to play their games anyways.. So I lived with a perpetual S-7 noise level on 80 meters.. Then the electric company revised their transmission lines and upgraded their so called Sub Station in Robertsville PA.. Looks more like something Tom Edison would have built 100 years ago with blade switches and fuses.. What Mike Holmes would call Lipstick and Mascara.. So after several months of a perpetual S-9 noise level , I called the electric company.. All I will say about it is that their good people retired and they hired a bunch of kids.. Electricians and people that worked for a line service - tree trimmers, anyone that wasn't afraid to get in the bucket truck..
So they have no equipment to diagnose the problem, other than a yellow box that looks like an AM transistor radio with a loop antenna.. The guys must not have wanted to get cold, because they rode around town back in Feb holding the radio out the truck window.. Then they started playing with lightning arrestors - I knew at that point that they didn't know what they were doing.. 15 minutes in town every Tuesday for the next 4 weeks, kind of like a courtesy call where they did nothing but look out the window.. So I contacted Steve Long - Project Manager and head Engineer of UNILEC,, I knew something was up when he visited my home with Mike Flock. His title is System Planning Engineer. Another way of saying - Their Tech guy.. Now they are going Oh Ohh.. Do they want to find the problem, maybe have to scrap another meter reading system that they spent big money on? NO! So they turn off the power to the house, no change in noise level in my Kenwood TS 590S, turn off the circuit feeding the power to my house, no change, turn off the whole town - no change.. The noise is on the neutral and can be heard on an AM radio as much as 3 miles away in all directions.. A steady hum, sounds like a electrical motor noise, not an arcing noise.. On 160 meters i hear a loud clicking noise.. This noise is also getting into my television, I have vertical lines going thru the picture, extreme pixelation and drop outs on channels that were normally stable, and are stable at my dads house 1/4 mile up the road. And here is the kicker, COMCAST has a Green box mounted on the pole just below my dads house.. The noise stops just before that box.. I walked almost all of the 7 miles between De Lancey, PA and Robertsville PA, carrying a pocket am radio, while wearing headphones.. I am disabled and it took all I could muster to make the trek - with bone spurs in both heels of my feet and rheumatoid arthritis and spinal stenosis in my back and neck.. What I found is that the noise is strongest about a half mile from my house - but I couldn't get access to everywhere - because the land is posted and I didn't want to get in trouble with the landowner, not to mention - it isn't my job to fix the electric company's problem.. So I get an email from Steve Long saying - Mr. Bosak:

I went with our line crews down to DeLancy today to investigate possible radio noise heard at three locations. At these locations we did not find anything of significance. I believe United Electric’s power lines are in good operational order. With this last effort, I am closing the request for investigating radio noise.


Stephen Long

Manager of Engineering

United Electric Cooperative, Inc.

So the ARRL web site says send this letter, send it registered mail, so I sent it to Brenda Swartzlander - President of United Electric Co Op.. Basically they wiped their butt with it.. I sent the report to the ARRL, both times - 5 yrs ago and now, never got a reply.. So I called The FCC.. FCC says - Screw You, the woman on the phone said - we won't send anyone to investigate, we don't care about your problem, you have to live with it.. meanwhile, all my neighbors and myself are experiencing problems with our landline telephones.. Safelink shut off my cell phone after I complained about crappy service, even blocked my address to re apply.. I can't listen to the AM radio anywhere near 550 and 1100 AM, is all noise... But if you go up the road to my dad's house ( 1/4 mile up the road ) you can hear WTAM - Cleveland Ohio clear as a bell.. I'm at whits end.. Even when someone calls the house their first comment is - what is wrong with your phone, I can hardly hear you or it keeps dropping out.. Phone, TV and Ham Radio all being interfered with.. I am an active participant with the 3rd Region Phone Traffic Net, an ARRL Sanctioned net.. Trying to work HF at my QTH isn't even worth trying anymore.. Can't hear Chit, nothing but noise. ( Noise level with the pre amp on is 10 / 9 to 20 / 9 ) Guess I am here because I thought The ARRL represented all the hams, not just the ones they are friends with.. I'm not in the buddy club.. Can't understand why no one cares.. FCC / Phone company / P. U. C. / I even called my state representative - Chris Dush, my US House of Represenative - G. T. Thompson.. And you wonder why no one wants to join the ARRL anymore! I left my membership drop after the first incident 5 yrs ago... Doesn't seem to be worth it when all you get is a magazine once a month and nothing else..
ARRL, FCC Discussing Issue of Uncertified Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers WD3D on 9/10/18
Thank You ZAK I remember that article well. Said 97% of all the radios tested were not in compliance. My point is that what people forgets is that it is up to us - as licensed amateurs, to learn all of the rules, not just the couple of rules covered in the license exams. That the Part 97 is like a guidebook - how we should operate.. While the Part 15 is the technical aspects that explains the minimum standards published for all radio services. Had anyone put your article together with what it says in The Part 15 - they would realize that those radios were never in compliance and no model was ever submitted to The FCC to be part type acceptable. Since they are not Part type acceptable for any radio service - they are not part type acceptable for The Amateur Radio Service - since there is no way to block the out of band frequencies. Just like NASCAR that tried to race on a track with imperfections or missing guard rails - by telling the drivers - just don't drive there! There is no way to make those radio perform on just the amateur radio bands - even if you did not intentionally transmit out of band. The spurs are all across the band spectrum. Why is it that you knew this and yet the powers that be at The ARRL did not understand this when they published that they were going to Petition The FCC to not ban those radios for use on the amateur radio frequencies? My opinion is that they A. - don't want to upset those on the fringe of amateur radio, the ones that only spend $20 - $40 to buy a walkie talkie. Or B. - Figured there was no way to enforce the rule, so figured they would just ignore the rule and the problem, and hope that the problem would go away!

Two stories - 1 - I believe it was in Johnstown PA, that someone with a couple of these handhelds interfered with police communications - until he was caught. This caused quite a ruckas until they physically caught him..

2. - The local firemen bought them because the county did not issue them radios for each firefighter. The firefighters thought that since there was a Wide / Narrow selector in the programming, they could just choose which type of emission they wanted and no one would know the difference. Only the narrow the radio used was not the same as the narrow band compliance rule in place. And, the real radios had a digital identifier that showed the 911 center which radio was in transmit. The cheap Beofungs did not have this option. Hence anyone transmitting without authorization was in fact transmitting illegally. The problem then becomes trying to convince someone that they do not have a license to transmit on those frequencies nor is the radio legal for transmitting on those frequencies and that they could get everyone in trouble - just for transmitting with a wide band radio on a narrow band channel. After all - they are firemen not radio technicians. The internet has turned most everyone into automatic experts on most any subject, just because they now have access to the opinions of others, and free access to equipment that was previously only available to licensed LMRS technicians with Radio Telephone licenses.

Today anyone can operate a 50,000 watt transmitter at a commercial radio station - without any knowledge of how it works or even need a Radio Telephone license. Just run it until it breaks or someone complains and then call a freelance engineer to come fix the problem..
ARRL, FCC Discussing Issue of Uncertified Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers WD3D on 4/10/18
ARRL, FCC Discussing Issue of Uncertified Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers

In my opinion, what this is - is called BACK SLIDING.

The ARRL made a serious mistake when they allowed advertising for these illegal radios. Then when told - these radios are indeed illegal, they tried to justify using them by saying - well as long as no one transmits on other frequencies - it is OK!

NO - it is not OK!

These radios are ILLEGAL - pure and simple. Lets let it drop at that.

Tell everyone - OOP's we made a mistake, you can't use these radios, please stop using them to make "Check In's" on your local UHF / VHF nets and go out and buy yourself a real amateur radio.

How stupid are you people? You have tested these radios for years at The Dayton Hamfest and found 97% of them to be non compliant!
How much more than that do you need?

PLMRS is very specific - you aren't allowed to operate on their frequencies without a license - which you do not have, and without their permission - for which the only agency that can give you permission is THE FCC!

All of these radios are loaded with SPURS that can be heard on the PLMRS frequencies when you are transmitting on YOUR AMATEUR RADIO FREQUENCIES.

What this means is that you are transmitting illegally each and every time you transmit with these radios - regardless of if you are on frequency - on amateur radio or not!

We have dumbed things down to the point of where no one understands the rules anymore and everyone "Cowboy's It" to the point of where we have turned this into The Citizens Band!

We need to re evaluate our priorities here, look at what we have been doing, that has not worked, and learn from our mistakes.
Quit licensing people that has no business on Amateur Radio and start recruiting people that are actually going to do something constructive - beyond just buying a $30 walkie talkie and occasionally participating on a local FM net.

Bloating our numbers artificially is not creating any real hams here.
Just listen to any conversation on any FM repeater in Western PA, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and you will quickly deduce that these people shouldn't even have a license!

Where are the Elmers here?

If you want to do something constructive - The ARRL needs to petition The FCC to make it so that no one can become licensed unless they are first paired with a Certified Elmer. Someone that can teach these new people how to talk, act, and be a HAM!

We need to go back to the old days, where everyone is required to keep a log and are required to operate X amount of hours before they are given a permanent amateur radio license.

Instead of giving them HF frequencies where they can make an even bigger mess, and giving them privileges for which they did nothing to earn - bring back the novice class, the novice frequencies and make these people physically earn a license - like they did in the old days..

At this point - bringing back CW seems to be the most logical way of keeping out those that does not belong in the first place...

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