ARRL Members Respond to HR 607
Last month, a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives that addresses certain spectrum management issues, including the creation and maintenance of a nationwide Public Safety broadband network. This bill -- HR 607, known as The Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 -- if passed, also calls to auction off parts of the 70 cm band, namely 420-440 and 450-470 MHz. As such, the ARRL asked its members to write their Representative, asking them to not support HR 607 in its current form.
According to ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, Chwat & Co -- the ARRL’s legislative relations firm in Washington, DC -- received almost 1000 letters in just the first week from League members in opposition to HR 607. “This is a great start and many thanks to the diligent members who have risen to the challenge; however, it cannot stop there. As long as HR 607 is in its current form, we must continue this campaign.” He clarified that the ARRL opposes HR 607 in its present form: “We do not oppose the concept of dedicated spectrum for the development of a Public Safety infrastructure and wireless network. We object to the bill because of the inclusion of 420-440 MHz as part of the spectrum to be swapped and auctioned to commercial users.”
Henderson shared a few pointers for writing letters in opposition to HR 607. He said that two of the most frequently asked questions that he receives are Why does the ARRL ask us to funnel our letters to Congress through Chwat & Co? Why can’t I send my letter directly to my Representative?
“Trust me when I say I understand your concern and I firmly believe that the more input members of Congress receive -- either for or against an issue -- from their constituents, the better the public interest is served,” Henderson said. “But using the services of Chwat & Co has many advantages that help the ARRL further its legislative agenda. The most important part of our system is that hand-delivery of constituent letters to a Congressional office provides the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with key staff or your Member of Congress -- an opportunity to make our point directly.”
Unfortunately, several dozen letters sent to Chwat & Co. are not usable for a variety of reasons, Henderson explained. Some letters are in support of bills that the ARRL supported in previous sessions, but have no bearing on HR 607. Henderson cautioned that bill numbers change in subsequent Congresses, as do the issues being addressed: “Please make sure your letter is addressing the correct issue. Don’t ‘dust off’ that letter you sent previously -- it will not help with the current problem.”
While we all look for “easy” ways to express ourselves to our Representatives, a letter sent without a signature carries little weight when Congressional staffs begin assessing support or opposition to a bill. Though many members of Congress have websites where constituents can simply fill out a web page form to share their thoughts with their Representative, such web forms have only limited usefulness in lobbying on a specific issue. “The fact that a constituent makes the effort to sign a letter personally -- then sends it in via fax, regular US Mail or by scanning the signed letter into a PDF then e-mailing it -- has a far greater impact than an unsigned e-mail or web-based form,” Henderson said. “Please make sure your letter carries your signature. It does make a difference!”
Henderson said that several letters received at Chwat & Co were addressed to the wrong person. For example, there were several letters addressed to Senator Boxer, but began with “Dear Representative Boxer” -- an incorrect title. “We are not asking letters be sent to members of the Senate -- only to your Representative in the US House. If you are unsure of who your Representative is, you can find out here.”
Sometimes, in our eagerness to help, we can overlook some of the basics, like grammar, spelling and the proper form of address. “Please proofread your letter several times to ensure it is accurate,” Henderson advised. “This should include all names, addresses and salutations, as well as any comments or edits you may add to our form letter.” He said that by reading the final letter out loud to yourself several times before sending to Chwat & Co, you can find most, if not all, mistakes.
“Defeating HR 607 in its present form is a fight Amateur Radio can win -- but only with thoughtful participation by us all,” Henderson explained. “Thanks to all of you for your efforts and let’s keep this moving forward. Protecting our spectrum is important to all of us!