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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB024 (2020)

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ARLB024 FCC Grants ARRL Rules Waiver Request for Fire Emergencies,
Hurricanes

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ARRL Bulletin 24  ARLB024
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  September 18, 2020
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB024
ARLB024 FCC Grants ARRL Rules Waiver Request for Fire Emergencies,
Hurricanes

The FCC has granted ARRL's request for a temporary waiver to permit
amateur data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently
permitted by section 97.307(f) of the FCC Amateur Service rules. The
FCC acted to facilitate hurricane and wildfire relief communications
within the US and its territories.

Section 97.307(f) limits the symbol rate - the rate at which the
carrier waveform amplitude, frequency, and/or phase is varied to
transmit information - for HF amateur radioteletype (RTTY)/data
transmissions to 300 bauds for frequencies below 28 MHz (except for
60 meters), and 1,200 bauds in the 10-meter (28 - 29.7 MHz) band.
The digital signal must use one of the codes specified in section
97.309(a) of the rules, but an amateur station transmitting a RTTY
or data emission using one of the specified digital codes may use
any technique whose technical characteristics have been publicly
documented.

In 2016, in response to an ARRL petition for rulemaking, the
Commission proposed to remove the symbol rate limitations, which it
tentatively concluded had become unnecessary due to advances in
modulation techniques and no longer served a useful purpose.
However, the FCC did not include the ARRL proposal to limit signal
bandwidth to that which the Commission had said it intended when it
originally adopted the 300-baud limit. The proceeding is currently
pending.

ARRL sought the waiver for amateur radio licensees directly involved
with hurricane and wildfire relief via HF using PACTOR 4 modems for
communication within the US and its territories, relative to several
impending hurricane situations and wildfires in the western US.
ARRL's petition noted that Section 97.307(f) of the amateur rules
prevents the use of PACTOR 4, a data protocol that permits
relatively high-speed data transmission. ARRL noted that past FCC
temporary waivers have allowed this protocol during similar events.
ARRL also stated that trained amateur radio operators with
communications equipment are actively preparing to assist radio
amateurs involved with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
working with federal, state, and local emergency management
officials to assist with disaster relief communications.

"We conclude that ARRL's request should be granted," the FCC said.
"ARRL stands ready to assist the area potentially impacted by the
impending hurricanes and ongoing wildfires to conduct disaster
relief communications. ARRL asserts that the higher data rates
offered by PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions are critical to sending
relief communications. We conclude that granting the requested
waiver is in the public interest." The waiver is limited to 60 days
and applies only to stations in the continental US and Puerto Rico
using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions and who are directly involved
with HF hurricane and wildfire relief communications.
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