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Riley Hollingsworth to North Carolina Club: Amateur Enforcement “Very Much Alive”


Former FCC Special Counsel for Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, told the Forsyth Amateur Radio Club that the FCC is still active in the Amateur Radio enforcement arena, even though it’s not always apparent. He spoke to the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, club on November 10.

“You may not think so, but enforcement is very much alive,” said Hollingsworth, who — although retired — still keeps up with goings on at the FCC and with the enforcement activities of his successor, FCC Special Counsel Laura Smith. “You just don’t hear a lot about it, as you used to,” he said, because ham radio news media report only the “big announcements” these days. During his tenure, Hollingsworth routinely released preliminary letters of inquiry and warning notices to radio amateurs suspected of breaking the rules. Now, he said, the FCC is using “the IRS model” of releasing information, partly in response to privacy considerations.

“You only see final actions [now],” he said. “So, you don’t think a lot’s being done, but it’s all behind the scenes, and you don’t know about it.”

What is not helpful, he told the club members, is e-mailing or writing Laura Smith or the FCC proper to rudely demand Commission attention to particular enforcement issues. Hollingsworth said the FCC has received “nasty e-mails to FCC personnel” concerning suspected ham radio rule breaking.

“I’m talking about horrible e-mails, threatening e-mails, threatening to the degree that the security office sometimes gets involved,” he said. “We’ve got to stop this.” Hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, he stressed, gives some people within the FCC a bad impression of ham radio and could prove counterproductive.

Hollingsworth suggested that hams interested in keeping up with enforcement subscribe to the FCC Daily Digest or view it on the FCC website. “You read these and you get an idea of how busy the FCC is across the board,” he said. The FCC also documents Amateur Radio Service enforcement actions on its website. The page is not frequently updated, however.

Hollingsworth pointed out that the FCC is still running two parallel websites, since many were unhappy with the new site when it was unveiled a few years ago. The old — or “transition” — site remains fully functional.

Hollingsworth praised FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for his role in helping to get the agency on a more active footing, and Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc, who was appointed last March. “I’m very impressed with him,” Hollingsworth said of LeBlanc. The Enforcement Bureau is the FCC’s largest bureau.

In remarks now familiar to many who have heard him speak at Dayton Hamvention and elsewhere, Hollingsworth also warned his audience members against getting into on-the-air spats with rude or careless operators.

“Don’t engage people, and don’t humor the idiots,” he said. “Stupidity can’t be regulated, no matter how good the rules are. Just turn the big knob. Every rig has one.”

Hollingsworth speculated that a lot of interference that is considered deliberate actually is accidental, but that hams encountering it automatically assume offense. He said the number of rule breakers represent only a small fraction of a percent of the Amateur Radio population, however, and “they’re getting whittled down.”

“Our responsibility is to get Amateur Radio through the next 100 years,” Hollingsworth concluded. “You must recruit. You’ve got to keep these newcomers interested” and show them everything ham radio has to offer.

Today’s hams, he said, ought to be presenting a good example for those who follow. “It’s time for us to leave a legacy for this avocation,” he said.

Hollingsworth’s complete talk appears as Episode 174 of the online Amateur Radio television series HamRadioNow, produced by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ. — Thanks to HamRadioNow and Gary Pearce, KN4AQ




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