Defending Our Frequencies
It's the job of the ARRL Technical Relations Office (TRO) in Fairfax, Virginia to protect our bands at the federal level in Washington and internationally. This Washington presence has a staff of two to handle the task: Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price, N4QX, and Technical Relations Specialist Jon Siverling, WB3ERA.
Domestically, the TRO is part of the ARRL Washington team consisting of President Kay Craigie, N3KN; Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ; and General Counsel Christopher Imlay, W3KD. ARRL represents its members' interests by keeping in regular contact with the Federal Communications Commission, with other Executive Branch agencies, and our elected representatives the US Congress.
Internationally, the staff of the TRO works to defend Amateur Radio interests by interacting directly in the workings of the International Telecommunication Union--the United Nations agency responsible for managing the radio spectrum and establishing telecommunications standards. International frequency allocations and other international aspects of radio regulations are determined at periodic ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC). The TRO receives guidance in interlational matters from Sumner, International Affairs Vice President Jay Bellows, K0QB, and from Tim Ellam, VE6SH, President of the International Amateur Radio Union. The IARU is is a "Sector Member" of the ITU Radiocommunication and Telecommunication Development Sectors. The IARU and its member societies ably defend Amateur Radio through careful planning and coordination for each conference. All hams, whether members of their respective national Amateur Radio societies or not, benefit from this advocacy.
The World Radiocommunication Conference
The ITU convenes a World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) about every four years to discuss changes to the allocation of frequencies in the RF spectrum. Numerous ITU Working Party and Task Group meetings lead up to this conference. Broadcasters, government agencies, satellite users and emerging technology information providers all want a piece of this finite property. It is imperative therefore that Amateur Radio users worldwide be aware of these proposals and prepare responses that their governments can take to WRC-preparatory meetings. The TRO actively participates in many of these meetings in defense of Amateur Radio interests.
The International Amateur Radio Union
The Technical Relations Office also provides support services to IARU. They include:
- Drafting of input papers to international meetings for approval of IARU officers.
- Distribution of documents to IARU officials from international sources such as ITU, CITEL and other regional telecommunications organizations.
- Providing support to IARU displays at ITU TELECOMs and other international expositions.
The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, known by its Spanish acronym CITEL, is an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS). Practically everything that occurs at the WRC is pre-digested in regional organizations such as CITEL. CITEL is among the beats of Jon Siverling, WB3ERA. Our bilingual staff member maintains liaison with the CITEL secretariat and regularly participates in its Permanent Consultative Committees (PCCs). Siverling also attends many other US meetings relating to ITU preparatory meetings.
Sharing the Workload
A staff as small as the TRO must be versatile to make up for their lack of numbers. Although each member has a specific assignment, they are able to fill in for each other if one or more are overseas or has a scheduling conflict.
Price concentrates on ITU Study Group 5 (Terrestrial Services, including the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services) and the Radiocommunication Advisory Group. He's also on the board of directors of the United States ITU Association, an organization of private sector interests with stakes before the ITU. Siverling handles ITU Study Group 1 (Spectrum Management) in addition to his CITEL assignments. He is also the vice chairman of FCC/WAC/IWG-2, which is a private sector advisory committee advising the FCC on WRC-12 matters affecting terrestrial and high altitude platform services. If all this alphabet soup appears daunting, be assured that our TRO staff members thrive on it.
The Domestic Scene
Meanwhile, domestic rule-making proceeds at a faster pace. The workings of our Congress are much better reported in the press than are the deliberations of these international bodies. Furthermore US hams can take a much more direct approach in affecting the outcome of congressional deliberations. Recent successes in antenna zoning legislation at the state level are examples of effective ham participation in the political process.
ARRL General Counsel Imlay normally takes the lead in ARRL representation before the FCC. Imlay and the TRO draft pleadings for review by ARRL officials. TRO staffers make frequent telephone calls to several Bureaus and Offices and are at the FCC repeatedly on domestic and international matters. The result is that ARRL has good access and enjoys a professional working relationship with that agency.
The ARRL's Technical Relations Office is an important part of the action in Washington and internationally and is an excellent example of another of the services associated with ARRL membership. For a complete description of the many organizations and committees involved in spectrum management--and ARRL's involvement--see Paul Rinaldo, "Protecting Our Bands: More than Meets the Eye," QST, July 2001, pp 59-63.