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It Seems to Us: It Doesn't Just Happen

09/28/2009

Do you operate on 40 meters? If you haven't been on the band lately, you're in for a real treat! Years of patient effort by the ARRL and by our sister members of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) have paid off. The band is more useful now than it's been in more than

70 years -- and ARRL members and supporters like you were essential to making it happen.

I'm delighted to share this good news -- but I also must ask for your continued support to ensure that the ARRL will always to be able to do what's needed to defend and improve your access to the radio spectrum.

When you think of 40 meters, you probably think of interference from foreign broadcasters. Here in the Americas, amateurs always have had access to 7,000-7,300 kHz -- but we had to tolerate broadcasters in the rest of the world in the upper two-thirds of the band. I can recall the futility I felt as a 13-year-old Novice, trying to make myself heard through the racket with just two crystal-controlled transmitting frequencies to choose from. I remember taking the crystal holders apart and putting pencil lead on the crystals in a vain attempt to slip in between the broadcasting behemoths.

Forty years later I had the great privilege of being present in Geneva when the 2003 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-03) agreed that we had made the case for a wider worldwide amateur band, free of broadcasting interference. For the first time in the history of radio communication, an HF broadcasting allocation would be shifted in order to accommodate the needs of another radio service -- ours!

The WRC-03 decision was very gratifying, but an important question remained: Would the broadcasters really move? The International Telecommunication Union has no enforcement authority, and operation in contravention of the international Radio Regulations is not exactly unknown. As it turned out, the transition was quite dramatic. On Friday evening of the last weekend of March, 7,100-7,200 kHz was full of broadcasters as usual -- but as the new seasonal broadcasting schedule took effect on Saturday night the band cleared of all but a few. For the very first time our overseas friends could hear us on 40 meter phone without having to breach the wall of broadcasters! Over the past six months the situation has continued to improve as more broadcasters have complied with the WRC-03 decision. Nighttime operation above 7,200 kHz remains a challenge, but it's not an exaggeration to say that 40 meters is like a whole new band. As a member recently commented, "For the first time I can ragchew with Europeans on 40 meter phone from Oklahoma!"

Moving hundreds of broadcast transmitters in dozens of countries out of a band didn't just happen. It took years of patient effort by a global team of volunteers and ARRL professionals, working through the IARU, to overcome objections and marshal the necessary support.

It was an expensive undertaking, and it never could have been accomplished without the voluntary contributions -- above and beyond their basic dues -- of thousands of ARRL members like you.

Even as we celebrate our reborn 40 meter band we must remember that it takes hard work just to hang onto what we have. Much as we like to pursue new and improved ham bands, most of our effort must go toward frequency defense. Every day, new uses of the radio spectrum are being conceived. Each one competes for spectrum access with incumbent radio services, including ours. Not only must we defend our allocations against well-heeled backers of licensed services, we must also try to prevent the pollution of the radio spectrum by unlicensed devices. The fight goes on in Washington, Geneva, and around the globe -- and there's no end in sight.

You may have heard that the WRC originally scheduled for 2011 has been pushed back to 2012, and you may have thought that this gives us an extra year to prepare. In fact, the schedule has slipped by less than three months. Decisions are being made now that will determine how many administrations -- including the United States -- will support a new secondary allocation to the amateur service at 500 kHz, and whether proposals for allocations to oceanographic radars will threaten some of our existing HF bands. We are hard at work meeting these challenges, but we need your help.

So, in this annual appeal I must ask you to be as generous as you can in supporting the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund. Members' past response helped us to keep commercial satellites out of the 144 and 420 MHz bands, to gain access to frequencies around 5 MHz, and to win our court challenge of the FCC's flawed Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) rules. New challenges keep cropping up. Currently we are working to ensure that new short-range medical devices do not impact our ability to use our UHF and microwave bands.

No one can predict all of the threats that Amateur Radio will face in the future, but this much is certain: there will be challenges, and the ARRL -- with your continued help -- will be ready and willing to meet them.

While your contribution is welcome at any time, it will help us a lot if you can respond by November 30 so we can plan for the coming year. Your donation by mail, phone or on the Web at www.arrl.org/defense is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Many thanks!

David Sumner, K1ZZ
ARRL Chief Executive Officer



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