ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB020 (1997)

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ARLB020 ARRL calls on FCC to privatize handling of malicious interference
complaints

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ARRL Bulletin 20  ARLB020
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  April 17, 1997
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB020
ARLB020 ARRL calls on FCC to privatize handling of malicious interference
complaints

Citing ''a substantial need to improve and increase the quantity and
quality'' and timeliness of enforcement in malicious interference
complaints, the ARRL has called on the FCC to ''create a streamlined,
privatized enforcement process'' to handle and adjudicate the most
serious Amateur Service rules violations.  In a petition for
rulemaking filed March 28, the League asked that the FCC change its
rules to permit members of the volunteer Amateur Auxiliary to bring
evidence of malicious interference violations directly before the
FCC's Chief Administrative Law Judge.  The Chief ALJ would be
authorized to determine if the complainants have a valid case, to
issue show-cause orders, and to designate complaints for hearing.

The League recommended that the FCC capitalize on the volunteer
resources available through the Amateur Auxiliary to relieve the
evidence-gathering burden in such cases.  If the rules changes are
approved, the League said it would likely assist members of the
Amateur Auxiliary in preparing and submitting complaints and in
presenting cases at administrative hearings.  ''The increased use of
volunteer resources would seem to be entirely appropriate in the
Amateur Service, which involves avocational use of radio only,'' the
ARRL concluded.

While noting that most hams obey the rules, the League said Amateur
Radio needs the Commission's help ''in a very few, persistent,
serious enforcement cases'' but has not been getting it in recent
years because of the FCC's staff and budgetary limitations.

''Indeed, notwithstanding the best efforts of the Commission over the
past several years, there has been no resolution of the four or five
most serious cases brought to the Commission's attention,'' the
League said in its petition.  Even in some of the cases the FCC did
act upon, the League said the Commission did not go far enough to
make the problems go away permanently.  The League cited a case in
New Orleans where fines against several amateurs were reduced but
remain unpaid and uncollected.  ''There is a widespread, and growing,
perception that administrative forfeitures are not collectable,'' the
ARRL said, pointing to the complex, time-consuming method of
collecting fines that is required by federal law.

The ARRL noted that while the FCC suspended one ham's license in
that city in 1996, it failed to look into malicious interference
charges against at least two other hams in that area.  The League
said examples like these send a message that the FCC won't enforce
Amateur Service rules in malicious interference cases.  ''Malicious
interference problems, if left unchecked, tend to spread and
increase in intensity,'' the League said.  The ARRL suggested that a
series of ''visible, successful enforcement actions'' would deter
rules violations and promote self-regulation.

The ARRL also suggested that some FCC policies get in the way of
timely, effective enforcement.  Current Wireless Telecommunications
Bureau policy requires the Commission to independently corroborate
evidence gathered by Amateur Radio volunteers.  ''The policy often
acts as an absolute obstacle to any enforcement activity
whatsoever,'' and it demoralizes volunteers who view their efforts as
wasted.

While noting that malicious interference cases often attract a lot
of attention within the amateur community, the League said ham radio
can be ''justifiably proud'' of its history of voluntary rule
compliance.  ''The overall level of compliant behavior among amateurs
has not deteriorated over the years,'' the League emphasized, citing
fewer than 10 active malicious interference cases in the US at
present.
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