FCC Invites Comments on ARRL Petition That Seeks 80/75 Meter Adjustments


The FCC has put the ARRL’s January Petition for Rule Making (RM 11759) on public notice and invited interested parties to comment on what the League has called “minimal but necessary changes” to 80 and 75 meters. The ARRL petitioned the FCC to fix a “shortfall in available RTTY/data spectrum” that the Commission created when it reapportioned 80 and 75 meters 10 years ago.

The League’s petition asked 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 proposed change received strong support from ARRL members, and the ARRL Board of Directors adopted it as policy at its July 2015 meeting. At that time the Board also agreed to seek RTTY and data privileges for Novice and Technician licensees within their current 15 meter CW subband, and to do the same on 80 meters, depending on the outcome of the 80/75 meter subband revision.

The petition asks the FCC to make the following changes to the Part 97 Amateur Radio Service rules, with respect to 80/75 meters:

  • Modify the RTTY/data subband, so that it extends from 3500 kHz to 3650 kHz.
  • Modify the 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 operate CW in the 80, 40, and 15 meter General and Advanced RTTY/data subbands.
  • Modify the rules governing automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS), to shift the ACDS segment from 3585-3600 kHz to 3600-3615 kHz, consistent with the IARU Region 1 and 2 band plans.

According to the ARRL, the FCC Report and Order in Docket 04-140 released in 2006 departed substantially and without justification from the rules proposed in the FCC’s so-called “Omnibus” Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), with respect to 75 and 80 meters. Among other actions, the resulting changes 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 substantially changing “the entire dynamic of this band,” the League said.

Although the Omnibus R&O had indicated that incumbent licensees would not lose any operating privileges, some clearly did, the ARRL has pointed out. The most substantial adverse effect of the “unexpected and vast expansion” of the 75 meter phone/image subband, the League said, 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. That the Omnibus R&O did not modify § 97.221 of the rules to provide for ACDS “was clearly an oversight by the Commission.”

After the FCC denied a subsequent ARRL Petition for Reconsideration, 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.”