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FCC Grants 60-Day Waiver of Part 97 Data Rate Rules for Hurricane Relief Traffic

09/02/2021

In an August 30 Order, the FCC granted a temporary waiver sought by ARRL to facilitate relief communications related to Hurricane Ida. The waiver also applies to relief communications directly related to any future hurricane within the next 60 days. The waiver permits radio amateurs handling hurricane relief communications on HF to use any protocol that would comply with the FCC’s rules but for the symbol rate limits.

In its request, ARRL said that Section 97.307(f) of the FCC’s Amateur Service rules prevents the use on HF of certain protocols capable of higher data rate emissions that many amateur stations are capable of using while active in emergency communications preparedness. ARRL asserted that higher data rates can be critical to timely transmission of relief communications, such as lists of needed and distributed supplies. ARRL noted that radio amateurs are working with federal, state, and local emergency management officials to assist in the communications efforts.

On August 28, the FCC orally granted ARRL’s request to immediately facilitate relief communications related to Hurricane Ida. The FCC has granted temporary waivers in the past to allow faster protocols to be used for disaster relief communications, including Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Maria, typhoon relief communications in Hawaii, and Hurricane Dorian.

The Commission noted that the waivers are necessary because Section 97.307(f) limits the symbol rate at which the carrier waveform amplitude, frequency, and/or phase is varied to transmit information for HF amateur radioteletype (RTTY)/data transmissions to 300 baud for frequencies below 28 MHz (except on 60 meters), and 1,200 baud on 10 meters: “The digital code used to encode the signal being transmitted must be one of the codes specified in section 97.309(a) of the FCC’s rules, but an amateur station transmitting a RTTY or data emission using one of the specified digital codes may use any technique whose technical characteristics have been publicly documented, such as CLOVER, G-TOR, or PACTOR.”

“We conclude that granting the requested waiver is in the public interest,” the FCC said. “Hurricane Ida has caused significant damage, including disruption to electricity and communications services. Thus, to accommodate amateur radio operators assisting in the recovery efforts, we grant ARRL’s waiver request for the period of 60 days from the date of this Order. The waiver is limited to amateur radio operators in the US and its territories using publicly documented data protocols that are compatible with FCC rules, with the exception of the data rate limit waived here, for those directly involved with HF hurricane relief communications.”

 



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