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“Eternal Vigilance” Is the Price We Pay for Our Spectrum

04/19/2011

The first edition for 2011 of Spectrum Defense Matters -- a newsletter aimed at keeping ARRL members updated on issues related to the protection of Amateur Radio frequencies -- was recently released on the ARRL website. This newsletter covers both domestic and international topics related to the Amateur Radio spectrum. Your financial support is vital to continue the ARRL’s work to protect your operating privileges. You can help protect these privileges by contributing generously to the 2011 ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund.

As ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, said in a recent ARRL Legislative Update newsletter, “Eternal vigilance is the price of spectrum.” Sometimes the threats are minimal; sometimes their impact can be devastating if not addressed. Regardless of the degree of severity, any threat to our Amateur Radio spectrum must be a top priority of the ARRL.

Below are some of the Spectrum Defense items that the ARRL is working on and are featured in this issue of Spectrum Defense Matters:

HR 607

On February 10, Representative Peter King (R-NY-3) introduced the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 into the US House of Representatives. It has been designated as HR 607 and referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles telecommunications legislation. The bill provides that the so-called “D-Block” -- a set of frequencies that became available when the FCC ended analog television broadcasts -- be designated for use by Public Safety agencies. The D-Block would allow the development of an interoperable broadband network for use by groups such as first responders, emergency management agencies, police, fire and rescue services. The ARRL supports the work of those groups and does not object to allocating the D-Block for that purpose.

“HR 607 is a bill that seeks to provide additional spectrum above 700 MHz for an interoperable broadband network for First Responders,” wrote ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. “This is a laudable goal, and one sought by other legislation in both the 111th and 112th Congresses. Unfortunately, Representative King’s bill would require a ‘swap’ of auctionable spectrum -- including the 420-440 MHz band that is so important to our ability as radio amateurs to provide public service communications and to otherwise serve the public interest. The ARRL is mounting a strenuous opposition to HR 607 in its current form, and we will not rest until this provision of the bill is removed from consideration.”

The 70 cm band has become one of the centerpieces of Amateur Radio’s emergency communications, but the loss of the 420-440 MHz frequencies can mean much more to amateurs. With the loss of these frequencies, Amateur Radio satellites -- operating between 435 and 438 MHz -- would no longer be usable, since they cannot be re-tuned. Weak signal work -- primarily between 432-433 MHz -- has been invaluable to building our knowledge of UHF propagation. A threat to any portion of the amateur spectrum, whether it is spectrum we personally use or not, must be vigorously opposed by the entire Amateur Radio community.

The ARRL Washington team -- comprised of ARRL leadership, headquarters staff and our legislative relations firm -- is actively working this challenging problem and has begun visits to key staff on Capitol Hill. On behalf of the ARRL, President Craigie has written Representative King, outlining the League’s opposition to HR 607 in its current form; she has also written the current co-sponsors outlining our concerns. The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) -- of which the ARRL is a member -- has contacted the ARRL and is supporting its position. The ARRL has also called on its members to voice their opposition to HR 607 in its current form. It is important to reaffirm that the ARRL is a strong supporter of Public Safety agencies and fully supports their need to have the D-Block allocated for their use. But we cannot do so at the expense of Amateur Radio spectrum.

BPL Battle Continues

April 25 marks the third anniversary of the ARRL’s Court of Appeals victory over the FCC and its flawed regulations for Broadband over Power Line (BPL) systems. The FCC still has not completed the steps the Court required in order to correct its prejudicial handling of the original rule making proceeding.

But the battle goes on. The ARRL continues to argue for mandatory notching of the amateur bands. We have filed complaints with the FCC of interference and rules violations by one of the few remaining BPL system operators. In February we filed a complaint with the FCC Laboratory, showing that this company’s BPL modems are substantially overpowered and improperly certified.

The marketplace has rejected BPL as a means of delivering broadband service to consumers, but the technology has other applications such as smart grid, so the ARRL can’t allow interference protection for licensed services to remain inadequate. The ARRL led the fight against BPL interference from the very beginning, and will continue to do so.

Secondary MF Amateur Allocation

ARRL and IARU representatives continue to make the case for a secondary Amateur Radio allocation of about 15 kHz within the 415-526.5 kHz range, and have garnered significant support at recent regional and international meetings. Participants in World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) will consider such an allocation under Agenda Item 1.23 next year.

In February, a secondary amateur allocation at 461-469 and 471-478 kHz gained inter-American support at meetings of the Permanent Consultative Committee II of the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL). Held in Bogota, Colombia, attendees at these meetings adopted the United States position for the MF allocation.

CITEL is one of six regional telecommunications organizations whose formal positions carry significant weight during deliberations at a WRC. Acknowledging the difficulty inherent in gaining any new allocation, Sumner noted the importance of formal regional support: “While we still face an uphill battle internationally, gaining the support of one of the major regional telecommunications organizations this early in the process improves our chances for achieving an allocation at WRC-12.”

The Conference Preparatory Meeting for WRC-12 was held in Geneva, also in February. Attendees discussed two possible methods of satisfying Agenda Item 1.23, along with the possibility of there being no change (and therefore no allocation). Method A envisions an allocation of up to 15 kHz between 472 and 487 kHz. Method B calls for allocations totaling 15 kHz at 461-469 kHz and 471-478 kHz.

ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, attended the CPM as a member of the United States delegation. CITEL and the United States support Method B, which conforms to the resolution adopted in Bogota. At this stage, Method A has support from several administrations in Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Sumner -- who attended the first half of the CPM on behalf of the IARU -- praised the result. “The hard work of a team of radio amateurs led by the International Amateur Radio Union -- and with considerable help from friendly administrations -- has gotten us to this point,” he explained. “While more support will need to be developed among other administrations if we are to achieve an allocation at WRC-12, our prospects are better now than they were [at the start of the meeting].” He gave particular credit to Ken Pulfer, VE3PU, who has coordinated the IARU effort and gained valuable support from the Canadian administration: “Ken and the IARU team have been working on this issue for three years.”

WRC-12 -- and Beyond

Price said that from a defensive perspective, the Conference Preparatory Meeting for WRC-12 was a very good one: “Between proposals for oceanographic radars at HF, space object detection radars at VHF and regulations for software defined radio systems, WRC-12 -- like all WRCs -- poses the potential for actions against the interests of Amateur Radio. Fortunately, and not without significant efforts by our ARRL and IARU representatives, the CPM report for these Agenda Items is very good from our perspective. The frequency bands proposed for the two radar systems do not conflict with Amateur Radio’s worldwide allocations, and the only method proposed for software defined radio calls for no change, an outcome which would permit radio amateurs’ continued fruitful and free pursuit to advance the state of the radio art in this field.”

Saying that WRCs are “fraught with uncertainty,” Price said that the IARU and the ARRL still have work to do ahead of the Conference. “The agenda for the WRC that will follow WRC-12 is taking shape,” he explained. “It is possible, perhaps even probable, that the WRC held in the 2015-2017 timeframe will include an Agenda Item that will bear striking resemblance to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan effort. Such an agenda item will present challenges to all users of the radio spectrum, including Amateur Radio. Efforts to make sure the scope of such an item is reasonable have already begun.”

You and the ARRL -- Helping to Protect Our Amateur Radio Spectrum

For 2011, the ARRL set a goal of raising $350,000 to support its efforts to defend Amateur Radio frequencies and operating privileges. “Members tell us that ARRL’s representation of their interests is one of the most important benefits of being an ARRL member,” said ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH. “And we are proud to be your voice in official Washington and around the world. But we need you to support ARRL financially.”

If you value the Amateur Radio spectrum, please help the ARRL protect this valuable resource. For a $50 contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund, you will receive a beautiful 2011 Spectrum Defense pin that you can wear with pride, knowing you are doing your part to help to protect your on-air privileges. With a donation of $100, you will not only receive the pin, but also a 2011 Spectrum Defense mug.

“Please make a generous contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund by mail, on the web or by phone,” Hobart said. “Perhaps you’ll consider a very easy way to contribute by pledging $10 or $20 or $100 a month. Your financial commitment, over and above your annual dues, will ensure that ARRL has the resources to represent you and protect your operating frequencies.” To make a donation via mail, please send it to Spectrum Defense Fund, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. To make a contribution over the phone, or to discuss other giving options, please call 860-594-0397.



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