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What Role Can You Play to Help Defend Our Amateur Radio Spectrum?

12/14/2010

The third edition of Spectrum Defense Matters -- a newsletter aimed at keeping ARRL members updated on issues related to the protection of Amateur Radio frequencies -- has just been released on the ARRL Web site. This newsletter covers both domestic and international topics related to the Amateur Radio spectrum. Your financial support is vital to continue the ARRL’s work to protect your operating privileges. You can help protect these privileges by contributing generously to the 2010 ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund before December 31.

“The coming year will see the completion of preparations for the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12), to be held in Geneva in January and February 2012,” said ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ. “We hope for favorable outcomes on the agenda items we care about -- but that will not be the end of it. This WRC will recommend an agenda for the next one, later in the decade. Will that agenda pose serious threats to amateur spectrum? Will it include the possibility of new or expanded amateur allocations? The answers will depend in part on work being done on your behalf today, in Geneva and within regional telecommunications organizations that cover the globe.”

This edition of Spectrum Defense Matters includes articles on how the IARU works with the world’s six regional telecommunications organizations (RTOs), a look at how the FCC’s National Broadband Plan could affect the Amateur Radio Service and a message from ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, outlining many of the ways the ARRL advocates for the defense of your spectrum.

On the International Stage

The ARRL is the largest national Amateur Radio association in the world, with the largest professional staff. As such, the League has resources that our colleagues in other countries do not, so it is able to devote more resources to the protection and expansion of Amateur Radio spectrum access. But we could never do the job alone. Fortunately, there is a global team of radio amateurs, most of them volunteers, who have been willing to devote their time -- sometimes at great personal sacrifice -- to preserving and expanding the amateur bands. Their work is coordinated through the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), the worldwide federation of national Amateur Radio organizations.

The ARRL may devote the most resources in absolute terms, but others do their fair share and more. IARU Member-Societies pay annual dues to their regional IARU organizations based on formulas that are approved by the Member-Societies themselves at regional conferences -- in effect, a self-imposed tax. Each of the three regional organizations is different. For example, Member-Societies in Region 1 -- Europe, Africa, Northern Asia and the Middle East -- pay 1.80 Swiss francs per licensed member of IARU Region 1 per year, or about $1.80 at current exchange rates. Region 2 (the Americas) calculates its dues based on the number of licensed amateurs in each country and assesses $.07 per licensed amateur, a figure that has not changed since 1986.

The role of regional telecommunications organizations (RTOs) -- not to be confused with the IARU regional organizations -- has grown in recent years. The final decisions with regard to proposed changes in the international Radio Regulations (including, but not limited to the Table of Frequency Allocations) are made at World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs), held every few years under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Every ITU Member State has the right to submit proposals for consideration at a WRC, but there are 192 Member States. Try to imagine the chaos that would result if many of them submitted separate proposals on each of more than two dozen agenda items and then tried -- working in six different languages -- to reconcile the differences in the space of a four-week conference. So for the past several WRCs, considerable preparatory work has been done through the RTOs to develop coordinated regional proposals. Here in the Americas, our RTO is known as CITEL and serves as the coordinator for the Organization of American States in telecommunications matters. The IARU regional organizations are principally responsible for representing our interests to the RTOs in their regions, but it is also essential to have Amateur Radio representatives on some national delegations.

Amateur Radio and The National Broadband Plan

Users of radio spectrum in the United States are watching regulatory developments related to the FCC and NTIA initiatives to make 500 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband use. Amateurs are no exception, and anxiety is understandable, particularly when FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and others continue to release statements like this: “The future of our mobile economy depends on spectrum, America’s invisible infrastructure. If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to face a spectrum crunch that will stifle American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”

Radio amateurs are excellent stewards of the spectrum to which they have access, particularly in the range between 225 MHz and 4.4 GHz, which has been the focus of the FCC and NTIA’s initial efforts under the Commission’s National Broadband Plan. With few exceptions, Amateur Radio already shares with other users in its allocated bands in this range, and these sharing arrangements permit Amateur Radio and its sharing partners to credibly argue that our use is maximally efficient.

As a result, Amateur Radio, at least initially, is well situated as the FCC and NTIA begin their work. While ARRL is vigorously contesting (in WT Docket 07-293) a suggestion that amateurs using 2300-2305 MHz will simply have to adapt to any degradation that may occur due to liberalized Wireless Communications Service (WCS) rules in an adjacent band, there has not yet been a proposal to put an entirely new service in spectrum used by Amateur Radio to reach the objective of 500 MHz for wireless broadband. The Amateur Radio Service is doing well, but as the WCS proceeding shows, it is difficult to come out unscathed from the juggernaut of wireless broadband.

On November 15, the NTIA, regulator for federal spectrum users, identified candidate bands totaling 2200 megahertz for consideration for reallocation to wireless broadband. This includes the 280 megahertz previously proposed for reallocation within five years by the FCC, as well as another 115 megahertz currently occupied by federal users identified for fast-track reallocation. Put together, that’s 395 megahertz -- there is 105 megahertz to go, and the 3300-3500 MHz band is among the candidate bands for that remaining 105 megahertz.

Technology Has Its Price

While ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, was in Geneva representing the ARRL at the meetings that lead up to WRC-12, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, finished filing the pleadings related to ARRL’s Petition for Reconsideration in WT Docket 07-293. “His work in this matter, as well as his efforts to curtail the misguided allowance of Recon Robotics surveillance devices on the 70 cm band,” Price said, “is well thought out, supported by the time and talents of our ARRL Laboratory, and is truly top notch.”

Price said that while the schedule of meetings and pleadings is demanding, the ARRL and the other IARU Member-Societies do their best to keep Amateur Radio healthy by ensuring its continued access to spectrum. “In the history of Amateur Radio, we’ve had wins and losses, but I think we -- ARRL members past and present -- are doing something right,” he said. “As the ARRL approaches its 100th anniversary, even in the face of significant commercial pressures, Amateur Radio is fortunate to have access to sufficient spectrum to permit experimentation and public service almost unlimited by imagination.”

How You Can Help Protect the Amateur Radio Spectrum?

So, why should you contribute to the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund? According to Sumner, there are many reasons: “To tell us you agree that defending your access to the radio spectrum is as important to you as we think it is. To be a part of a team that includes volunteers in dozens of countries who work through the IARU to protect and even expand your operating privileges. To relieve the stress on other parts of the ARRL’s operating budget that may not be as key to the survival of Amateur Radio but that are essential to the richness of our experience and our ability to serve the public. Perhaps most important, to pay back the investment that previous generations of ARRL members made in securing the frequency privileges you enjoy today.”

If you value the Amateur Radio spectrum, help the ARRL protect this valuable resource. For a $50 contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund, you will receive a beautiful 2010 Spectrum Defense pin that you can wear with pride, knowing you are doing your part to help to protect your on-air privileges. With a donation of $100, you will not only receive the pin, but also a 2010 Spectrum Defense mug.

Now is your chance to take that important step to support ARRL’s commitment to defending the Amateur Radio Spectrum. According to ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH, the ARRL is almost $106,000 shy of its Spectrum Defense Fund goal of raising $325,000 by the December 31 deadline.

“Please make a generous contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund by mail, on the Web or by phone,” she said. “Perhaps you’ll consider a very easy way to contribute by pledging $10 or $20 or $100 a month. Your financial commitment, over and above your annual dues, will ensure that ARRL has the resources to represent you and protect your operating frequencies.” To make a donation via mail, please send it to Spectrum Defense Fund, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. To make a contribution over the phone, or to discuss other giving options, please call 860-594-0397.



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