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ARRL Files Petition for Reconsideration over Waiver for Non-Amateur Device in 70 cm Band

04/06/2010

Background

In January 2008, ReconRobotics filed a request with the FCC for a waiver of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules with respect to their Recon Scout product. A waiver is required to permit licensing of the Recon Scout because the device operates in the 430-448 MHz band, which is allocated to the Federal Government Radiolocation service on a primary basis, as well as the Amateur Radio Service and certain non-federal radiolocation systems on a secondary basis. The ARRL opposed the waiver on the grounds that the device has a significant potential to interfere with amateur stations and that the company is simply trying to avoid redesigning for the domestic market a device that was originally designed for military use overseas.

In comments filed in May 2008 (as described in a May 29, 2008 article on the ARRL Web site), the ARRL called on the FCC to deny the ReconRobotics waiver request, “either permanently or even temporarily,” calling on the Commission to require ReconRobotics to “initiate a rulemaking proceeding if it feels that the Part 90 or Part 15 rules governing analog devices are not sufficiently accommodating and should be changed, and could be changed consistent with interference avoidance. Repeatedly granting waivers for analog devices which do not meet the fundamental interference avoidance requirements of the existing rules is bad spectrum management and ill-serves the Amateur Service.”

Despite opposing comments, the FCC granted the waiver request in the form of an Order (WP Docket No 08-63), subject to certain conditions.


The ARRL Petition

In its Petition for Reconsideration, the ARRL states that it is, of course, in favor of the development and use of technology in support of first responders and law enforcement efforts. The ARRL has no concern with the deployment by law enforcement personnel and first responders of video and audio surveillance devices per se. However, in its Petition the ARRL asserts that in this instance the Wireless Bureau and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau have granted the waiver precipitously and without due consideration of the interference potential and interference susceptibility of the subject devices. The ARRL Petition further argues that the Order failed to address a number of pertinent issues raised in submitted comments. The failure to do so characterizes the resulting Order as arbitrary and capricious.

The Petition also raises the issue of practical errors in the Order that would need to be corrected prior to any marketing of the equipment. For example, the FCC Order requires that Recon Scout transmitters be labeled with the following statement: “This device may not interfere with Federal stations (sic) operating in the 420-450 MHz band and must accept any interference received.” The ARRL Petition states that this statement is inconsistent with, and does not sufficiently meet, the obligations imposed on the waiver in the text of the FCC’s Order. Those conditions include a specific statement that the device is on a secondary basis to all Federal users and licensed non-Federal users. The ARRL Petition demands that the label be modified accordingly.

In addition, the FCC Order requires that the following statement be placed in the instruction manual: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, there is no guarantee that it will not receive interference.” The ARRL Petition argues that this language is insufficient; it should be modified to explain the conditions of operation more clearly. For instance, there is nothing in that language that explains to the user who experiences interference what that user’s expectations should be. Instead, the notice in the manual should read: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it must accept any interference received from Federal or non-federal stations, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

Finally, the ARRL Petition alleges that there is evidence of illegal marketing of the Recon Scout, which should by itself trigger a re-evaluation of the waiver.



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