Spectrum Defense Fund

Important Message from CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ

Dear Valued ARRL Member:

Your membership in the ARRL means that you are part of a worldwide network of radio amateurs who work together to ensure the future of Amateur Radio. I am writing to thank you, and to ask you to take your support to the next level through a voluntary contribution to the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund.

We tend to think of spectrum defense as defending our access to the frequency bands that we now enjoy, adding to them if we can. But there is another dimension to the problem: ensuring that our allocations continue to be useful for communication and experimentation.

Access alone is not enough. If our bands are full of manmade noise or if we must share them with incompatible partners, our ability to fulfill the basis and purpose of the Amateur Radio Service – the five principles that form the preamble to Part 97 of the FCC regulations – will be greatly diminished.

Ten years ago ARRL members rallied against Broadband over Power Lines, a half-baked scheme to offer digital broadband service to consumers over the same unshielded wires that deliver electric power to our homes. BPL had the potential to cause massive interference throughout the HF and VHF radio spectrum. It also had the then-Chairman of the FCC as a self-described “cheerleader.” The ARRL was relentless in its opposition to BPL spectrum pollution. We went all the way to the United States Court of Appeals, which sided with us in finding that prejudice had tainted the FCC’s rulemaking process.

Today we seldom hear about BPL. Broadband service delivery has moved on to more promising technologies. But power line noise – the kind caused by broken insulators and loose hardware – ranks first in terms of the interference complaints received at ARRL Headquarters.

Other common sources of interference to radio reception range from plasma displays in TV receivers to the ubiquitous “wall wart” switching power supplies. The growing list of potential sources is much too long to include here and encompasses anything that can generate an arc such as an electric fence or motor as well as anything that generates RF such as a microprocessor, a DC-to-AC power inverter, or a charge controller in a solar electric system. Even among all of these, electronic ballasts for grow lights stand out as an egregious source of radio spectrum pollution.

On March 12 the ARRL filed a well-documented complaint with the FCC, asking that the Commission immediately commence an enforcement proceeding to halt the marketing of the Lumatek LK-1000 electronic ballast. This device, used in conjunction with “grow lights” for indoor gardening, is in flagrant violation of FCC Part 18 rules.  ARRL Lab tests of conducted emissions from a Lumatek LK-1000 showed that the unit exceeded the FCC limits by as much as 58 dB. That’s a lot – it’s equivalent to the emissions from 630,000 legal devices!

Unfortunately, this Lumatek unit is far from the only offender among electronic ballasts. The ARRL Lab has tested additional models from Lumatek and two other manufacturers and has yet to find one that even comes close to being legal.

Grow lights have caused interference from a half-mile away. Given the very limited resources the FCC can devote to enforcement it is virtually impossible to address the problem on a case-by-case basis. The only solution is to prevent illegal electronic ballasts from entering the stream of commerce. With your support, the ARRL will keep pressing on this issue – just as we did with BPL.

That’s not all we’ve done lately.

On April 10 we filed a strong opposition to an FCC petition by Mimosa Networks, Inc. (RM-11715) that seeks to introduce commercial wireless broadband service in the 10 GHz band in contravention of the international Table of Frequency Allocations. Mimosa recognizes that this is a popular band for amateur microwave operation, but proposes measures that fall far short of offering any meaningful protection to amateurs.

Sometimes we must take a stand to protect an important principle, even if amateur allocations are not directly affected. On May 5 we opposed an FCC proposal in ET Docket No. 13-213 to permit unlicensed devices to operate without having to protect a licensed service from interference – an unacceptable violation of the FCC’s statutory obligations.

This year we are celebrating the ARRL Centennial. Your national association has been advancing the art and science of radio since 1914. We enjoy Amateur Radio today because earlier generations of ARRL leaders were effective advocates for our radio service. Now it is our turn, not only to protect what we have but to ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities to explore the natural resource – the natural wonder – of the radio spectrum.

Commercial pressures on the spectrum are relentless. We cannot know everything the future has in store, but we can be sure that there will be new and continuing challenges. The times demand vigilance and a renewed commitment by all of us.

Please be as generous as you can in supporting the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund. Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Sincere 73,

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ

June 2014


The 2015 ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund

Support the Spectrum Defense Now!

Thanks to the support of ARRL members, ARRL has maintained constant vigilance and decisive action throughout the years, including:

  • Defeating the threat that Little Leo satellites posed to the 2-meter band;
  • Protecting our bands and adding new ones;
  • Even the loss of the bottom 40% of the 220-MHz band two decades ago gave us upgraded status, from shared to exclusive, in the remaining 60% of the band;
  • Removing high-powered international broadcasting stations from the heart of the 40-meter band - doubling the size of the worldwide band and making it more useful than it had been in 70 years;
  • Earning Amateur Radio's first low-frequency(LF) allocation. But ARRL must peitition the FCC to implement the allocation and it will not be granted without argument;
  • Battling the Broadband Over PowerLine (BPL) interference for six years including successfully challenging the FCC on its prejudice that tainted the rulemaking process; and
  • Preparing for legal arguments to guarantee that the FCC will correct its errors and resolve issues solely on technical grounds.

Your contribution to the Spectrum Defense Fund ensures that ARRL will have the resources to meet future challenges when they appear and to protect your operating privileges.