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FCC Seeks Public Comments on Emergency Communications by Amateur Radio and Impediments to Amateur Radio Communications

04/05/2012

In response to the Congressional directive to prepare a study to assess Amateur Radio’s role in emergency and disaster communications and the impact of private land use regulations on the amateur community’s ability to provide such communications, the FCC issued DA 12-523 soliciting comments from the public. The period for public comment runs until May 17, 2012.

“As part of the study contained in Public Law No. 112-96, the Commission has opened a 45 day period for comments to be filed on the issue,” said ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND. “Because of the short deadline for the study to be completed and presented to Congress -- before the end of August -- the ARRL and the amateur community must quickly mobilize their response.”

The FCC Public Notice focuses on two specific areas for comments. The first is the role that Amateur Radio has played and continues to play to support emergency and disaster relief organizations, such as FEMA and local/state emergency management agencies. The second is to determine impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio communications. This would include the impact that private land-use regulations -- such as deed restrictions and homeowner association covenants -- have on the ability of licensed amateurs to fully participate in providing support communications to the served agencies.

“This study is not about zoning ordinances or regulations adopted by the local or state governments,” Henderson explained. “Amateurs already have the limited protection of PRB-1 to assist them with those situations. The areas of concern here are the limitations that are placed on a property when it is purchased, either as part of the deed of sale or by restrictions imposed by the neighborhood/homeowner’s association. Those restrictions -- sometimes referred to as CC&Rs -- are not currently covered by the FCC’s PRB-1 decision from 1985.”

To allow the ARRL to quickly collect and collate relevant information from the amateur community to help support the filing it will make with the FCC on this issue, a website has been setup. The site -- www.arrl.org/ccr-study-information -- provides details about what kind of information is needed by the ARRL.

Also on the site, you will find links to two online data collection forms. The first form allows you to provide information about specific emergency communications in which Amateur Radio has played a role since January 2000. The second form asks for specific information on the CC&Rs/deed restrictions that control your property. It also asks you to provide information on how those restrictions have impacted your ability to fully support emergency communications.

“Whether you are an ARRL member or not, your information and situation are important to helping us make the case for all amateurs,” Henderson said. “Whether your support communications are with ARES®, RACES, SKYWARN, CERT or other emergency and disaster groups, your voice should be heard. If you cannot operate effectively from home during an emergency because CC&Rs prohibit adequate antennas on your property, that is important to document and quantify. This issue affects all of Amateur Radio, not just ARRL members.”

Henderson said that due to the short timeframe that the FCC has allotted for public comment, time is of the essence. In order to allow the ARRL to develop its comments, the ARRL asks that all information sent by the amateur community be received at the ARRL no later than April 25, 2012: “We realize this is a very short turnaround asking for your response, but this is based on the time provided by the Commission for the comment window.”

It is important that when you provide specifics of your CC&R, you also provide the ARRL with a copy of its actual wording. If you have the CC&R in a digital format (or you can scan the document into a file), it can either be uploaded through the website above or it can be sent via an e-mail to CCRinfo@arrl.org . If you do not have an electronic format, a hard copy may be sent via US mail to: CCR Study Information, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111.

“We need factual, specific details,” Henderson said. “The more accurate information we have -- including copies of the CC&R language -- the stronger case we can make. Having copies of the exact CC&Rs is important. It allows us to demonstrate the wide variation of restrictions. Including the specific text is as important as any other piece of information you provide.”

If you have questions about what is being requested, you may contact the ARRL Regulatory Information Office via e-mail. “Again, time is of the essence in this matter,” Henderson said. “This is the best opportunity that amateurs have had to address the impact of overly burdensome private land use restrictions. If Amateur Radio is to succeed in this effort, it is going to take all of us working together.”



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