ARRL Asks FCC for “Minimal but Necessary Changes” to Correct Reapportioning Error
The ARRL has petitioned the FCC to fix a “shortfall in available RTTY/data spectrum” the regulator created when it reapportioned 80 and 75 meters in 2006. The League’s January 8 Petition for Rule Making asks the FCC to shift the boundary between the 80 meter RTTY/data subband and the 75 meter phone/image subband from 3600 kHz to 3650 kHz. The ARRL’s Petition points out that the proposed change has received strong support from the ARRL membership and was adopted as policy by the League’s Board of Directors in July 2015. At that time the Board also agreed to seek RTTY and data privileges for Technician and Novice licensees within the portion of the 15 meter band where they now may operate CW and to do the same on 80 meters, contingent upon the 80/75 meter subband revision.
Specifically, the petition asks the FCC to make the following changes, with regard to 80/75 meters:
- Modify the 80 meter RTTY/data subband, so that it extends from 3500 kHz to 3650 kHz.
- Modify the 75 meter phone/image subband, so that it extends from 3650 kHz to 4000 kHz.
- Make 3600-3650 kHz available for General and Advanced Class licensees, as was the case prior to 2006.
- Make 3600-3650 kHz available to Novice and Technician licensees for telegraphy — consistent with existing rules permitting Novices and Technicians to use telegraphy in the General and Advanced RTTY/data subbands on 80, 40, and 15 Meters.
- Modify the rules governing automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS), to shift the 80 meter ACDS segment from 3585-3600 kHz to 3600-3615 kHz, consistent with the IARU Region 1 and 2 band plans.
The ARRL contended that the FCC Report and Order in Docket 04-140 released in 2004 made “a very substantial” and unjustifiable departure from what the so-called “Omnibus” Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) had proposed, with respect to 75 and 80 meters. The resulting R&O in that proceeding, among other actions, expanded voice privileges on additional frequencies in various bands, including 75 meters. The FCC shifted the phone/image subband from 3750-4000 kHz to 3600-4000 kHz, trimming the 80 meter RTTY/data subband from 3500-3750 kHz to 3500-3600 kHz and changing “the entire dynamic of this band substantially,” the League said.
“The ratio of wideband phone spectrum to narrowband RTTY/data emissions went from 50/50 to 80/20, rather than the 55/45 split that the Omnibus NPRM had proposed,” the ARRL petition explained. “The adverse effects of this 2006 Commission action on various classes of licensee were significant and immediate.”
The League said that, while the Omnibus R&O indicated that incumbent licensees would lose no operating privileges, these “clearly” were adversely affected for some licensees. The ARRL said the most substantial adverse effect of the “unexpected and vast expansion” of the 75 meter phone/image was the elimination of access to 3620-3635 kHz by ACDS.
The Omnibus R&O rule changes limited 80 meters to 3500-3600 kHz, and no longer authorized RTTY and data emissions above 3600 kHz. The Omnibus R&O did not modify § 97.221 of the rules, “so its provision for automatically controlled digital stations in the subband 3620-3635 kHz was rendered a nullity,” the League said. “This was clearly an oversight by the Commission at the time.”
The FCC denied a subsequent ARRL Petition for Reconsideration seeking a partial stay of the new rules affecting 80/75 meters. Instead, the Commission replaced the inadvertently deleted 3620-3635 kHz ACDS segment with 3585-3600 kHz.
“Far from fixing the problem created by the error in the Omnibus R&O, the moving of the inadvertently deleted digital subband downward in frequency below 3600 kHz made the situation in the 80 meter RTTY/data subband even worse than it was,” the ARRL said. The result has been a shortfall in available RTTY/data spectrum at 80 meters.
“ARRL has analyzed the regulatory limitations as part of a comprehensive effort to make more efficient the use of those HF allocations, especially with respect to encouraging further experimentation and proficiency in narrowband digital communications technologies,” the League said in concluding its Petition. “The recommendations for modified band plans developed by ARRL necessitate the few, but important regulatory changes proposed.”